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Transdisciplinarity And The Terrestrial: Thinking Critically With Critical Zones

9 May, 2023 @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Following its adoption by the US earth sciences community at the turn of the century, the concept of the ‘critical zone’ has been central to a so-called ‘terrestrial turn’ in the arts as well as the sciences. Originally defined as the “heterogeneous, near-surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms regulate the natural habitat” (Jordan et al., 2001: 2), the concept has been engaged by thinkers across the environmental sciences and humanities to consider questions of ‘habitability’.


In this talk, David will reflect on this circulation as a contribution to the uptake and use of the critical zone concept in transdisciplinary enquiry. What does this circulation tell us about dialogues between the arts and the sciences? And how can transdisciplinary enquiry engaging the concept of the critical zone be reflexive about the power relations underlying how the earth’s surface has been mapped, explored, and exploited?


The talk will address ways in which the concept has been differently defined, framed, and situated around the world, reflecting on the history of ‘critical zone observatories’ in the US, Europe, and China, and the concept’s uptake in the arts and humanities inspired by the work of Bruno Latour.


David Edwards

PhD Candidate, The University of Glasgow

David Edwards is a human and environmental geographer with a background in Sinology. In dialogue with political ecology, postcolonial science and technology studies, and the environmental humanities, his PhD research addresses the translation and transfiguration of the ‘critical zone’ concept around the world, with a focus on Greater China. David is based at the University of Glasgow and has been a visiting researcher at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). In the last year, he has delivered presentations at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, the East Asian Regional Conference in Alternate Geography (EARCAG), and the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographer’s Annual International Conference.


All are welcome.

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9 May, 2023
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Common Core / BASc Lounge
Room 150 1/F Main Building
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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(852) 2219 4957
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Common Core