Terra Critica is an international research network in the humanities, bringing together scholars specializing in critical and cultural theory. Its aim is to reexamine critical theory and critique under the conditions of the 21st century – given our immanent, terran existences, globally entangled across flows of capital, people, and ideas and living in ecological and economical multidependences.
Terra Critica wishes to strengthen the Critical Humanities as a crucial site for critical analyses of our present, meeting regularly for expert seminars, aiming to provide a platform for discussion and publication, exchange of ideas and knowledges.
The network was initiated by Birgit Mara Kaiser and Kathrin Thiele in 2012, with a group of core members and a wider circle of participants to the regular meetings. It has been supported by the University of Utrecht and the NWO-Aspasiafunds, and continues to be supported by its different contributing institutions in various ways.
At a time when the Humanities are readjusting to their tasks in the globally entangled world of the 21st century – a century that inherits the various deconstructions of humanisms, colonialisms, sexisms, and racisms, as well as the many calamities that called for their deconstructions in the first place – practices of critique still seem crucial to the work done in the Humanities. The capacity to diagnose social formations, eschew dogmatisms, and provide the tools for emancipatory social transformations is much needed in times when global processes are presented as inevitable and autonomous – as inescapably demanded by a (economic) system or as beyond regulation and steering due to systemic (ecological) over-complexity. The Humanities continue to be the site where critical analyses of contemporary social realities are conducted, and where its techniques and future-oriented potentials are taught.
And yet, within an increasingly co-dependent and entangled world (economically, ecologically, culturally and politically), it is difficult to sustain the traditional image of critique: the calm distancing by way of setting apart and judging. Given our awareness of multifaceted, multispecies connectedness and global entanglements, in today’s world we realize that our evaluations and assessments, as well as our actions, (must) come about from within the processes of on-going change and differentiation, in continuous feedback-loops and multilateral negotiations. Practicing critique as laying bare the conditions of possibility on which then a ‘better’ programme will be built, a more justified normative order, falsely arrests the continuous feedback between the assessments and what is assessed, and reduces these complex and never inconsequential entanglements. Thus, our practices and images of critique need to be rethought: What is asked of us today is a critical practice that affirms the situated nature of any diagnosis, yet dares to answer to the needs of terra critica: a world in critical condition, whose planetary connectivity calls for critical intervention and creative responses, neither relativistic nor universal, but with sustainable futures in view.
If you would like to know more about the project, take a look at ‘What is Critique in the 21st century? Discussing Terra Critica’.