Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Nordeuropa-Institut



Four three-day block seminars with public lectures


The lectures and workshop will take place at Nordeuropa-Institut.

Haus 3, 1. OG. in Raum 3.134
Dorotheenstrasse 24
10117 Berlin

Block 1: ACTING – 16, 17 and 18 Nov. 2023
Designing as an alternative way of thinking

This seminar will be mainly held in English. 

Human beings are creators, but until now creation has been defined as isolated from academic creation. This is currently changing, and more and more humanities disciplines are turning to the arts and design disciplines to explore practical methods of creation and co-creation as methods of thinking and reflection. In this masterclass, we will meet design researchers who have worked at the intersection of humanities disciplines, art and design – to explore how language, care and emotion can lead to new entry points for action.

The question in focus will be: How can creativity and creating help us to gain new insights and reach self-realisation?

  • 16 Nov. 2023: 17.00 – 18.30
    Prof. Dr. Andrew Morrison – Institute of Design, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design
    Language, narrative and relational anticipatory designing
    The ways we can think, talk about, know and shape futures - between humans and more than humans, environments, places, nature and systems - is crucial for grappling with processes and actions for future planetary survival. The focus in this lecture is on roles of language and narrative in exploring and realising activities of making, learning and knowing in an anticipatory, relational frame. Examples are given from the FUEL4DESIGN project

  • 17 Nov. 2023: 17.00 – 18.30
    Prof. Dr. Patricia Ribault – Professor for Performative Design Research at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin
    Trans-making: On Means and Powers of Transformation
    Between thinking and making, how can we describe and define the various processes at stake in the emergence of forms?
    In German, the term Gestaltung relates to a certain dynamic of forms, whether manufactured or natural, while in Italian, the notion of « Formatività », coined by philosopher Luigi Pareyson, considers all forms—especially art works—as organisms, endowed with a life and an inner law of their own. In French, mathematician and psychoanalyst Daniel Sibony has come up with an interesting neologism: « trans-faire », which, in English, can translate into « trans-making » or « trans-doing », stressing the necessary in-betweenness of the act of formation. In this lecture, we will look for words, concepts and gestures that can help us make sense of these immemorial processes of transformation and we will connect them to some contemporary realities and challenges in the world of manufacturing.

  • 18 Nov. 2023: 13.00 – 14.30
    Prof. Dr.  Laurene Vaughan – School of Design, RMIT
    Curiosity and Care: designing our way into disciplinary collaboration
    Working with and across disciplines is more challenging than people think. Too often we make assumptions about what others know or do. And we equally think that we know own disciplinary approaches and deny our assumptions. Much is written and spoken about how the challenges of our times can only be addressed, and hopefully resolved, through transdisciplinary responses. This workshop will explore design led approaches to transformative collaborations framed through a practice of care.

Block 2: THINKING – 23., 24. and 25. November 2023:
Rethinking nature, democracy and our existing narratives

Language: Norwegian and English

In this seminar, perspectives from anthropology, ecocriticism and ecophilosophy will contribute with concepts relevant to thinking about the relationship between critique of cultural production, notions of green democracy and care, in order to fruitfully shape the transformation of human-environment relations.
This seminar will especially focus on the question: How and with what support structures can ecophilosophy help us to develop human characteristics relevant to coping with climate change?


  • 23 Nov. 2023: 17.00 – 18.30
    Dr. Katie Ritson – Center for Environment and Society
    Fuelling a Fairytale: Petroculture in Norway
    In 1969, substantial oil deposits were discovered under the Ekofisk oilfield on the Norwegian continental shelf, launching an industry which continues today. Besides the impact on local industry and landscape, and the economic impact and on Norway as a whole, oil has also seeped into Norwegian culture. Oil is both materially and imaginatively constitutive and thus we find its reflection across films, music, art, theatre and literary texts. In this lecture I will explore how the relationship between oil and culture is being renegotiated in the current moment of ecological crisis.

  • 24 Nov. 2023: 17.00 – 18.30
    Odin Lysaker – University of Agder
    Ecological Democracy: Caring for the Earth in the Anthropocene
    Today, we live in the age of an ecological crisis, a danger which is acute, existential, and planetary. In this situation, should we perceive nature in other ways than anthropocentric? If so, there are at least two main avenues ahead; biocentrism and ecocentrism. When it comes to democracy, this idea can be understood in different ways. Ecological democracy is one relevant model in the context of the ecological crisis. Is the idea of ecological democracy relevant in the Anthropocene? Given that, would biocentrism or ecocentrism be the most convincing account of nature as the foundation of this model of democracy?

  • 25 Nov. 2023: 13.00 – 14.30
    Lars Risan
    Wolf Children – The Natural History of Culture and Care

    Understanding culture as part of nature may make it difficult to think of culture as “civilized” and nature as a “struggle for life” as Darwin put it in 1859. Various animals have their own culture. To think of culture as not uniquely human, not opposed to some “wild nature”, but as part of another kind of nature, is to take a position that is sometimes called a break with human exceptionalism. I will exemplify another kind of relationship between human beings and other animals by telling concrete stories – stories about humans and animals.
Block 3: THINKING – 1., 2. und 3. Februar 2024:
The fiction, the relationship of man to the environment.             

Language: Swedish and English

This Henrik Steffens seminar will explore the possibilities of fiction and design research to create a new understanding of the relationship between human, non-human and more-than-human aspects. In this seminar we will be introduced to an Swedish research project in addition to two German researchers.

The speakers will contribute with research and activities to the question: How can cultural activity and creativity contribute to the reorientation of the human being in the posthumanist worldview?


  • 1. Feb. 2024: 17.00 – 18.30
    Design After Progress – research project group HDK-Valand, Umeå Institute of Design, School of Arts and Communication an der Universität Malmö, und Linnaeus Universität, Schweden.

    Ideas and ideals of ‘progress’ are embedded in ways of making and knowing the world, for example through technological development, rationality and economic growth. As design researchers, we will start this public lecture by sharing anchor points in history of where and how ‘progress’ was established to create common ground. We will also deliberate on how design has participated in making situations and lives better from certain – human-centered – perspectives, whilst also acknowledging that attention is increasingly directed towards what has been neglected and sacrificed in this progressivist project. The public lecture then moves into a seanse-workshop where we all explore, on location, how ideas and practices of ‘progress' take on a ghostly presence in design, haunting us as we try to find ways of doing and thinking design otherwise. The session strives towards finding ways of being better haunted to make liveable worlds through creative practice.    Lecturers
    Maria Göransdotter is associate professor in design history and design theory at the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University, with a PhD in industrial design and a background in the history of science and ideas. She works in the intersections of design historical and practice-oriented design research, exploring transitional design histories as a way of contributing to opening up conceptual spaces for thinking and doing differently in contemporary and emerging design practices. She is part of the research environment Design after Progress: reimagining design histories and futures E-mail:

    Li Jönsson (PhD) is associate senior lecturer at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University and works in the field of science and technology studies (STS), participatory and speculative design. She engages in questions related to how design can open up alternative ways of understanding, intervening, and expanding issues with a focus on contributing to public experience and socio-ecological engagements. She is part of the research environment Design after Progress: reimagining design histories and futures and the project Grief and Hope in Transition.

    Kristina Lindström (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in design at Malmö University, working with participatory, speculative, and inventive methods with a focus on designerly public engagement and future-making. She is part of the coordination group of the research platform Collaborative Future-Making at Malmö University where she leads the research project Grief and Hope in Transition. She is also part of the research environment Design after Progress: reimagining design histories and futures.

    Åsa Ståhl (PhD) is a design researcher and senior lecturer in design at Linnaeus University, Sweden. Her work combines participatory design with feminist technoscience and environmental posthumanities in explorations and speculations of how to make and know liveable worlds. Ståhl currently leads the research project Holding Surplus House and co-leads the research environment Design after Progress: reimagining design histories and futures. Together with Kristina Lindström she runs the Un/Making Studio that is built on two decades of collaborations between the two of them and others. Ståhl is also part of the research team in the Earth Logic Design project.


  • 2. Feb. 2024: 17.00 – 18.30
    Dr. Solvejg Nitzke – Technische Universität Dresden
    Ghostly Trees and Evil Plants. The Dark Sides of Literary and Cultural Plant Studies

    If we regard plants at all, we rarely give them credit for agency, let alone the capacity to act malevolently. Gardeners might develop ferocious hatred of so-called weeds, but those seem far away from the monsters that populate plant horror fiction. From the triffids and plant aliens of Science Fiction to the real monster-weeds covering entire landscapes, plant horror connects to environmental crises in intriguing and haunting ways. Ghost trees and haunted trees talk of futures past and lost opportunity but they also act as a warning sign that we need to learn how to read and act upon. In this talk I will introduce you to some of the most dangerous plants in fiction and beyond and explore how notions of good and evil, monstrous and natural are blurred in plants and plant fiction. This, I aim to show, serves us as an index for our own haunted and haunting relationships with plants and nonhuman beings. Learning how to communicate with ghosts and acknowledging our own vegetal monstrosity might be one key to future coexistence with our nonhuman others.

  • 3. Feb. 2024: 13.00 – 14.30
    Dr. Dörte Linke – Nordeuropa-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
    "Nature writing" as World-Making?

    In the literary exploration of natural phenomena, it is always an important question how these can be conceptualized and described. It becomes clear that "nature" as such does not exist, but that literary images of nature are narratives and constructs that say less about the object itself and much more about the human beings who create them - their lifeworlds, their cultural values and, not least, their self-image in relation to their own environments. This lecture will therefore explore the phenomenon of so-called "nature writing" - what exactly can it be? And what problems and possibilities does it harbor? This will be examined using texts by the Swedish author Harry Martinsson (1904-1978) and Josefine Klougart (*1985) as examples. In this way, the lecture also ties in with the two previous ones, as it also deals with the question of how literary texts can prevent natural phenomena from being forgotten and how they thereby also connect times, spaces and living beings with each other.


Block 4: ACTING – 8., 9. und 10. Februar 2024.
Solidarity with the future, competencies for action in the present

Languages: Norwegian and English

This Henrik-Steffens-Seminar gathers researchers from three disciplines; political science, science education and literature studies to help us think about how solidarity in sustainability discussions are temporal, underlying generation-gaps, and how young people currently build action competencies in activism. Cartographies will help gives us tools to relate these issues to topographies and geographically situated spaces.


  • 8. Feb 2024: 17.00 – 18.30
    Marianne Takle – Research professor at the Welfare Research Institute NOVA at Oslo Metropolitan University
    Acting in Solidarity with Future Generations

    My main argument is that we, who live today, must think and act in solidarity with future generations. We can influence the planet's future ecosystem more than ever with significant consequences for the lives and health of our descendants. There is an increase in lifetime exposure to extreme events, and future people will be more exposed to extreme weather. Young people living today, and future unborn generations have little or no influence on today’s political decisions.

    Solidarity is based on the idea that equal individuals should support each other to achieve something collectively and that no one should be left behind or disadvantaged. How can we act in solidarity with people who have not yet been born? 

    This question is answered by defining two core dimensions of solidarity. One is reciprocity, which in terms of solidarity with future generations is redefined as indirect reciprocity or a kind of stewardship. This is based on the perception that we do not own the nature we have access to. The other dimension is that current generations must establish self-imposed institutional constraints for the sake of future generations.

    Four examples of institutional constraints are discussed, three at the national level and one at the global level: national constitutions, national political institutions, national economic debt or savings, and the UN Agenda 2030 with the sustainable development goals. 

    I conclude by arguing that all political actions – and the strategies they are based on – carry with them ideas about the future. We must therefore be aware of our ideas about the future and how we commit ourselves to follow them up. By incorporating a future perspective into today's thinking of solidarity, it is easier to understand how we must act today for the world to be liveable for both us and those who come after us.

  • 9. Feb 2024: 17.00 – 18.30
    Kirsten Jüdt – PhD candidate TU Dresden
    Mapping Urban Spaces

    In times of ecological catastrophes and in increasingly precarious living conditions (social, political, ecological), humans and other living beings try to adapt and orient themselves while asking how living on a damaged planet might be possible in the future.

    The lecture and workshop are dedicated to introducing participants to mapping (urban) spaces that we inhabit and traverse. In order to carefully engage with specific places and environments, participants think about their own (local) microcosm and its interrelations with the (global) macrocosm.

    On the one hand, specific places can be investigated in terms of their present, past and future: What is found in places now, e.g. culture/subcultures, biodiversity, local practices, architecture, infrastructure? What was here before humans, e.g. Deep Time geological, archaeological or historical perspectives? Which ecological, cultural, social, political - futures can be imagined for this place? On the other hand, it will be asked how the constant change of (urban) spaces/specific locations can be perceived, documented or narrated. Possible forms of mapping can include: soundscapes, films, photos, collages, drawings, texts (poems, essays...), edited city maps, mind maps, narrated walks/tram rides, or mixed media formats…

    Both lecture and workshop aim at exchanging ideas and experiences about how we engage with the environment. Based on the premise that each participant is an expert in their own lives and their own ways of perceiving and learning, a spectrum of engagement emerges: what approaches can be chosen? How does the creative process take shape? Does the choice of artistic approach change how we construct meaningful relationships to our environments? Does our perception change through creative engagement? This allows for making visible creative relationships to the environment and to think about how we relate and adjust to the increasingly endangered world.

  • 10. Feb 2024: 13.00 – 14.30
    Astrid Sinnes – professor and vice-rector for sustainability, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
    Conditions for change. The university’s role in the sustainability transformation

    The last report from the UN panel on climate change calls for pervasive societal changes to avoid devastating consequences for millions of people caused by climate change. Higher education is being described as crucial to carry out these transformations. UNESCO argues that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the SDGs if the universities do not embrace the 2030 agenda and make changes accordingly and argues that “The SDGs represent a unifying challenge for all universities and HEIs and this must be reflected in plans and actions for research, education and outreach”.

    Are universities sufficiently prepared to contribute to this transition or must universities be transformed first? If so, what changes are then needed?

    In this lecture I will discuss some of the changes policy and research argues that universities must go through to contribute to pervasive societal changes. Using the Norwegian University of Life Sciences as an example, I will also discuss some of the obstacles that must be addressed for universities to fully contribute to this transition.


▼ About

„NATURE - THINKING - ACTING“ is a holistic and multidisciplinary series of masterclasses on the synthesis of humanistic thinking and sustainable action.
Our understanding of human and non-human life, of human action for a sustainable future and our thinking about change and transformation is influenced by our understanding and definition of nature. The Henrik Steffens-Masterclass series NATURE - THINKING - ACTING comprises four three-day block seminars that offer different perspectives on how the approaches of the humanities can be made fruitful for further development and change/transformation of human-environment relations:

  • How can creativity and creating help us to gain new insights and achieve self-realization? How and with what support structures can Eco philosophy help us to develop human qualities relevant to coping with climate change?
  • How can a redefinition of the concept of nature provide us with a different basis for understanding the relationship between humans and other living beings?
  • How can cultural activity and creativity contribute to the reorientation of humans in the post-humanist worldview?

▼ Moodle

Die Blockseminare finden jeweils Donnerstag 17:00−19:00 Uhr, Freitag 14:00−19:00 Uhr und Samstag 10:00−17:00 Uhr statt.

Kurssprachen sind Deutsch, Dänisch, Norwegisch, Schwedisch und Englisch.

Studierende der HU Berlin melden sich über AGNES an. 


Eine genauere Beschreibung der einzelnen Termine finden Sie auf HU-Moodle. Das Passwort für den Moodlekurs lautet: Masterclass

[Für Teilnehmer:innen von außerhalb der Humboldt-Universität besteht die Möglichkeit, einen Gast-Account bei Moodle anzulegen: Siehe Registrierung für Externe ohne HU-Account.]


▼ Reisekostenzuschuss

Pro Block wird jeweils 10 externen Studierenden ein Reisekostenzuschuss in Höhe von bis zu 300 Euro pro Person gewährt, und zwar in der Reihenfolge der Anmeldung.

Die Anmeldung zu den Blockseminaren ist bis zum 11. Oktober möglich.



HU-Studierende wählen zwei frei kombinierbare Blockseminare aus, um ein Seminar mit 5 ECTS (Masterstudierende) bzw. einen Vertiefungskurs mit 6 ECTS (Bachelorstudierende) angerechnet zu bekommen.

Externe Teilnehmer:innen erhalten dieselbe Zahl an ECTS. Für die Anerkennung der Kurse an der jeweiligen Heimatuniversität sind die Teilnehmer:innen selbst verantwortlich.