Theory Club

Each year GOSSIP examines a vital theoretical issue that imbues and links the eclectic research and teaching interests of the group through a year-long series of activities, including seminars, workshops, reading groups, writing projects, film screenings, invited talks, conference and knowledge exchange, staff-student events, and student lectures, tutorials and field classes.

The aims of the Theory Club are to:

(a) cultivate a community identity for the group and its complement of staff and students in Human Geography and Sustainable Development around some core and pressing theoretic concerns;

(b) furnish GOSSIP with a distinct profile and visibility within the School, University and wider networks within the critical humanities and social sciences;

(c) enhance some common threads and lines of progression within the School’s teaching and outreach programmes, and thus help in the ‘branding’ of St Andrews Geography and Sustainable Development;

(d) promote links and interactions across the School’s research groups.

The Theory Club embraces the term ‘possibilities’ in GOSSIP’s title: how might critical thinking and analysis of key geographical, environmental and global problems and challenges yield prospects for better or alternative lives and worlds.

A recent and notable book or project (and its influence on a wider theoretical field) will provide the focal point for the Theory Club’s discussions and interactions each year, and GOSSIP will report on its activities here, with a combination of shorter news items, and a longer review at the end of the year of the project/text/issue considered.


Theory Club AY2018-19: Capitalism and Sustainability

How does the understanding and attainment of ‘sustainability’ hinge on capitalism and whether it can reoriented or overcome?

This issue will be explored through a focus on:

Andreas Malm, The Progress in This Storm (London: Verso, 2017), which the Verso website lists as:

“In a world careening towards climate chaos, nature is dead. It can no longer be separated from society. Everything is a blur of hybrids, where humans possess no exceptional agency to set them apart from dead matter. But is it really so? In this blistering polemic and theoretical manifesto, Andreas Malm develops a counterargument: in a warming world, nature comes roaring back, and it is more important than ever to distinguish between the natural and the social. Only with a unique agency attributed to humans can resistance become conceivable.”

Malm is in the Department of Geography at Lund University and is the author of Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (also by Verso, 2016).

The Progress in This Storm will provide a nexus for thinking across questions of capitalism, climate change, sustainability and wellbeing. Capitalism is entrenched globally; but are there not also possibilities for collective, community action around this “careening”, and for alternative economies.