Group Core Meeting: June 2023

Terra Critica X:

Terra Critica X Rural Imaginations

Since 2012, Terra Critica has been examining the methodological stakes of critique and working toward critical modes that take entanglement – messy and ongoing – as critique’s foundational condition today.

At our last gathering in 2022, barely post-pandemic, we entered a new decade as Terra Critica, asking how to go on as critical scholars in a world altered by the pandemic, an accelerating climate catastrophe and the continued realities of war, but also a world in which critique is back as a core term and concern in contemporary debates. This return of critique has been paralleled by a return (or revenge) of the rural and a perceived intensification of rural-urban economic, cultural and political divides across the globe. Where we have previously looked into “the capitals of critique,” which can be read as a notion of critique predominantly coming from capital centers or cities, we now want to shift terrains to think about other sites of critique from which “calling into question the urbanist teleology of the European tradition” becomes possible (Spivak, “What’s Left of Theory?,” 210-211). What critiques are emerging from the rural, from the wilderness, from the land of indigenous traditions that is not thought as bounded property, and from the earth (the terra in Terra Critica)? What is the critical potential of so-called peripheral places often conceived as extractive hinterlands or of the more-than-human lives they harbor? If critique, as Latour suggested recently, needs to come “down to Earth” (Latour 2018), what does this mean? Which entanglements – including material ones of soil, water, weather – does a turn to terra involve us (in)? And how can we critically distinguish modes of returning to these peripheralized places? Bringing together Terra Critica with the ERC-funded Rural Imaginations project (2018-2023) – – in a rural space in the Netherlands, Veenhuizen, which has functioned, successively, as an agrarian pauper colony, prison, refugee center, museum and UNESCO world heritage site, allows us to begin to address these and related questions.

Terra Critica x Rural Imaginations has sponsored by an NWO Aspasia grant and by the project “Imagining the Rural in a Globalizing World” (RURALIMAGINATIONS, 2018–2023), which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 772436)


Okan Akkin (Ardahan University/Utrecht University)
Mercedes Bunz (King’s College London)
Birgit M. Kaiser (Utrecht University)
Vicki Kirby (University of New South Wales)
Jacques Lezra (University of California, Riverside)
Sam McAuliffe (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Timothy O’Leary (University of New South Wales)
Esther Peeren (University of Amsterdam)
Kathrin Thiele (Utrecht University)
Tjalling Valdés Olmos (University of Amsterdam)
Melanie Sehgal (University of Wuppertal)
Sybrandt van Keulen (University of Amsterdam)
Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor (Penn State University)
Shannon Winnubst (The Ohio State University)


Core readings:

• Raymond Williams, “The New Metropolis” (from The Country & the City, 1973)
• Amitav Ghosh, “Introduction” and “Terraforming” (from The Nutmeg’s Curse, 2021)

Additional readings:
• James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village” (from Notes of a Native Son, 1955)
• Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “What’s Left of Theory?” (from An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, 2012)
• Karl Marx, “Proceedings of the Sixth Rhine Province Assembly, Third Article: Debates on the Law Concerning the Theft of Wood” & Daniel Bensaïd, “The Law on the Theft of Wood and the Right of the Poor” (from Daniel Bensaïd, The Dispossessed: Karl Marx’s Debates on Wood Theft & the Right of the Poor, 2021)
• Patricio Guzmán, Nostalgia for the Light (Nostalgia de la Luz) (film, 2010)
• Fremeaux & Jordan, We Are Nature Defending Itself (
• Mishuana Goeman, “Land as Life: Unsettling the Logics of Containment” (from Native Studies Keywords, edited by Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Andrea Smith and Michelle H. Raheja, 2015)

Reading on Veenhuizen:
• Special issue of Collateral: Online Journal for Cross-Cultural Close Reading on “Dutch Domestic Colonization: From Rural Idyll to Prison Museum” by Hanneke Stuit, Anke Bosma, Emily Ng, Esther Peeren and Tjalling Valdés Olmos: COLLATERAL (


Wednesday, June 14

14:00-16:00 Opening Session
introduction by Esther Peeren, Tjalling Valdés Olmos, Birgit M. Kaiser and Kathrin Thiele

followed by a talk by Esther Peeren:
“Scenes of Extraction: Mediating Rurality, Wilderness and Hinterland”

16:00-16:30 Break

16:30-18:00 Screening of The Country & the City (1979, film based on Williams’ book, narrated by Williams)

Thursday, June 15

10:00-12:30 Session I (moderator: Birgit M. Kaiser)
terraforming – worlding – storying (with interventions by Vicki Kirby, Jacques Lezra, Sam McAuliffe, Timothy O’Leary)

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-16:00 Session II (moderator: Tjalling Valdés Olmos)

materiality and transmutation (with interventions by Esther Peeren, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, Shannon Winnubst)

visit to Veenhuizen & National Prison Museum

Friday, June 16

10:00-12:30 Session III (moderator: Esther Peeren)
critique, complicity and the more-than-oppositional (with interventions by Birgit M. Kaiser, Kathrin Thiele, Tjalling Valdés Olmos, Sybrandt van Keulen)