CALL FOR PAPERS – Habitation & Habitability, ASPA 2015

Call for Papers
ASPA Panels in Habitation and Habitability
Deadline for submissions: December 11, 2014

Building upon the successfully organized WPSA 2015, Las Vegas Panel 02.02 “Exploring a Habitability Approach in Environmental Political Theory” we would like to propose one or more panels for the APSA 2015, San Francisco meeting that will further examine antipathies and possibly, points of rapport, between the notions of habitation (construed as the way a community makes use of its environment to support its form of life), and habitability (the dynamic match or mis-match between its environment and the form of life it seeks to lead). We invite papers that articulate those relationships in a specifically political way, hence that contribute to a specifically environmental political theory of habitability.
The phenomenon of habitation is illustrated by the idea of “second nature,” namely the idea that human beings themselves reconstruct the basic conditions of their lives. The physical environment they inhabit (so fundamental and given as to be, in effect, “nature”) is the result of human transformation and exploitation of primordial materials and forces. The results are so distinct and profoundly different from those primordial states as to be “second.” A place is thus made suitable for living by the activities of its inhabitants, who deliberately alter it to support the kind of habitation that, understood collectively, a people desires. While other species also alter their surroundings, for human beings the patterns of habitability are shaped by ideals of habitability, i.e. prevailing or influential ideas about what constitutes a good form of life. These ideals influence the ways that people choose to live, and so, to constitute “second nature” over time.

Habitation and particular ideals associated with it can, ironically, undermine habitability, to the point of creating a vicious cycle. An example can be seen with the phenomenon of climate change. Human habitation has re-worked not just this or that landscape, but the entire planet. Ideals of habitation associated with modern living standards – such as comfort, and convenience – prompt the use of ever-increasing amounts of energy, leading to greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures, which in turn cause heat waves, storms, and other extreme weather events. One consequence of the prevailing ideal of habitation is even more and growing energy use, as people, to different degrees according to political status and economic power, seek to insulate themselves from these impacts. However, a virtuous cycle is at least imaginable, where ideals of the good life inform ways of living that serve as constraints. For example, by incorporating strategies for social protection into climate change mitigation and adaptation, or strategies for environmental justice into sufficiency practices or transition movement goals. Such new constraints may exert a “feedback” effect on habitation ideals and the practices they inform.

Climate change is only one example of the sorts of issues raised by habitation, and we stress that papers need not explore that topic. We invite papers that explore any dimension of the theme of habitation and habitability—from studies of historical theorists to more conceptual approaches, and dealing with any scale from global concerns (like climate change) through local land use. Please send abstracts as e-mail attachments to by December 11; we will then select papers for as many panel proposals as seems appropriate, for submission to the APSA by December 15.

Organizers: Andy Scerri, Virginia Tech; Peter Cannavò, Hamilton College; Zev Trachtenberg, University of Oklahoma; Tim Luke, Virginia Tech; George Davis, Marshall University.