conference State of Nature in India

Klaus Staeck - Exhibition: Nothing is done © Pictures of exhibition: Klaus Staeck - Nothing is done

Thu, 23.08.2018 -
Sat, 25.08.2018

Gallery MMB

An interdisciplinary Conference

The new age of power over nature is now being called by scientists “the Anthropocene,” or the Human Age, or “Age of Man.” While it is true anthropogenic processes have had planetary effects, the term depoliticises the ecological crisis, which is seen as a key question of our times, and hence demands deeper explorations. The ecological underpinnings of human societies are foundational and multi-dimensional. Nature defies clear demarcation. Any attempt to classify it will possibly hide more than it reveals. It needs to be examined not only from historical, cultural, political perspectives, and the many other ways in which it is visualized and evoked, but also from the perspective of the non-human.
This conference aims to understand better these complexities, and also to offer a critique of the widely discussed Anthropocene concept, through a focus on India. It seeks to dissolve boundaries between multiple practices by creating a more open and cross disciplinary conversation, which cuts across traditional disciplinary categories of knowledge making, by bringing together artists, cultural practitioners, natural and social scientists, policy people, activists and thinkers.
The conference is divided into three broad parts to enable the sharing of diverse ideas by very different practices and includes keynote lectures and moderated panels, along with discussions with the audience. Such a conversation is proposed as a possible way of creating new trajectories through which the ecological crisis can be challenged.

Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Conceptualised in collaboration with Ravi Agarwal

Free entry.
We encourage pre-registration at


Time table and keynote speakers



6.00 pm  Welcome Address 
Dr. Martin Wälde, Director, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai

6.15 pm  Keynote Lectures

State of Nature: Some Philosophical Issues
Dr. Akeel Bilgrami,
Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

The Naturalization of Humans in the Anthropocene
Dr. Bernd M. Scherer,
Direktor, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, Germany

7.15 pm Conversations

Dr Akeel Bilgrami
Dr Bernd M. Scherer
Moderator: Dr Martin Wälde



9:30 am Introduction by Ravi Agarwal [New Delhi]

9:45 am to 1:15 pm

Session 1: Valuations (of nature)

The idea of nature has been incorporated into human systems as various values. This session will examine the multiple ways in which nature has been included into our economic, legal, decision making, political and traditional systems. It will also think of ways in which the value of nature needs to incorporate for a multispecies planetary sustainability.

  1. Law, Rights and Nature – Shibani Ghosh [New Delhi, India]
  2. Radical Ecologies and futures– Aruna Chandrasekhar [Bangalore, India] 
  3. Art, Science and New Nationalisms in Shifting Political Climates – Sria Chatterjee [Princeton, USA]
  4. The Inmost Nature – Nilanjan Bhattacharya [Kolkata, India]
  5. Strange-ing Spaceship Earth – Rohini Devasher [New Delhi, India]
  6. Comprehending Violence – Amar Kanwar [New Delhi, India]
Moderator: Dr. Akeel Bilgrami

2.30 pm to 6.00 pm 

Session 2:  Inhabitations (of nature)

This seeks to examine ‘lived’ nature, as well as its representation in various cultural, linguistic and mythological forms and knowledge systems, to understand the complex ways it is present through language, myths, caste, and its representations in art forms

  1. Language and landscape – Ranjit Hoskote [Mumbai, India]
  2. The Goddess Who Lost Her Body: A feminist reading of the feminine mythology of Indian Rivers - Sheba Chhachhi [New Delhi, India]
  3. Nature and Caste – Dr. Mukul Sharma [New Delhi, India]
  4. Nature, Matter, Technology – Dr. Ram Ramaswamy [New Delhi, India]
  5. Patterns which connect – Navjot Altaf [Mumbai, India]
  6. Living with Snakes - Janaki Lenin [Bangalore, India]
Moderator: Aveek Sen


25th August, | Gallery MMB

9:45 am to 1:15 pm 

Session 3: Contestations (of nature)

This panel will discuss the contestations which have appeared when nature is economically and politically mobilized for ‘progress’. It will reflect on the historical and political processes and the resistances.

  1. A Tree Grows in Bangalore – Annapurna Garimella [New Delhi, India]
  2. Political Membership & the Multispecies Polity – Maya Kóvskaya [Chiang Mai, Thailand]
  3. India's Circulatory Urbanism  – Rahul Srivastava [Mumbai, India]
  4. Are Rivers a Luxury? – Himanshu Thakkar [New Delhi, India]
  5. The challenge for environment justice in an aspirational economy – Kanchi Kohli [New Delhi, India]
  6. Nature is not Natural, So what Happens Next – Ashok Sukumaran [Mumbai, India] 
Moderator: Ravi Agarwal

1:30 to 2.30 pm

Concluding Session: Looking Ahead: Are we capable of futures?

  1. Dr. Akeel Bilgrami
  2. Maya Kóvskaya
  3. Amar Kanwar
  4. Dr. Bernd M. Scherer
Moderator: Ranjit Hoskote