It’s all about wood: urban oaks between beetles and beeches

Doing research in Kassel, a middle-sized city in the very middle of Germany, I quickly became pulled into an urban oak wood that has a rich history and some time ago was turned into a nature conservation area – the “Eichwald” (literally “oak wood”). Its history is well documented by a local initiative called “Erinnerungen im Netz” (engl: memories online, translation CL). Local residents remember playing in the wood as children, drinking coffee at the “Eichwaldrestaurant” – a popular destination for day trippers – and much more. Humans have long used the Eichwald in their everyday lives and it plays a vital role in individual and collective memories. “After all, the wood is for the people, isn’t it?” one interview partner claims as he shows me where the playground once was. Standing there in 2019 we see fallen leaves showing through shrubs and ivy on the ground. The wood is full of scions growing up between dead oaks and beeches. Both the summers of 2018 and 2019 have been unusually dry – many healthy trees died throughout Germany. For woods to cope better with hot and dry summers, which are very likely to appear more often in Germany under climate change, they need to be diverse. Biodiversity is key to render forests resilient to climate change. Governing a wood – from an imperial park to a nature conservation area It had always been a tidy wood – until 2013. In the 18th century landgrave Wilhelm VIII had installed a pheasantry and an alley framed by oaks. The pheasantry, like all buildings in the Eichwald, does not exist anymore. Still everyone of my interview partners referred to it and pointed to the places where they remembered it. While oaks are not necessarily common in North Hesse (most woods are dominated by beeches) they have been in wide use in German parks for centuries, a circumstance that brings us to the hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita), an endangered species under special protection, which lives in old oaks (preferably 200 years or more of age). Osmoderma eremita is basically the reason I was drawn to do research in that wood, because a conflict arose between the local forest authority, the city administration and the citizens from the area after the Eichwald was turned into an area of nature conservation in 2013. The beetle gained a protected area to live but some people feel they lost an area that has been so vital throughout their lives. Who is the wood for? The Eichwald is supposed to develop into a “virgin forest” and be a biodiverse habitat for the endangered hermit beetle and other species....

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Wanted: A Mother of Cultural Studies

As a cultural anthropologist with a historical perspective, I really wonder: where are all the women in the history of our critical, self-reflective discipline?

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Of Closing Doors and Dead Ends. Why Extremism will not Disappear if we Ignore it
Dec19

Of Closing Doors and Dead Ends. Why Extremism will not Disappear if we Ignore it

Populism and extremism of any kind are on the rise in many parts of the world – and Germany is no exception. Wouldn’t it be just the perfect time for the German government to decide on massive budget cuts for political education? What seems like nothing else than bitter irony, affects not only engaged activists and social workers, but also the research being done in this area. A call for research to go where it hurts.

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And when the welcoming is over?
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And when the welcoming is over?

In September 2015, Munich’s central train station came to international media attention as a site of arrival for thousands of refugees. After an exhausting and often dangerous journey, this was their first step into Germany. But what happens after the welcome? Younus, Shadi and Eyob tell their stories of arriving: three voices against the ongoing problematization of migration.

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Beggars not wanted: a chronology of the exclusion of ‘poverty immigrants’ in Munich

On 20th of August 2014, the city of Munich enacted a ban on begging in its downtown area with the intention of tackling so-called ‘forced begging’. The ban is, however, primarily targeting and outlawing so-called ‘poverty immigrants’ from Romania and Bulgaria. What kind of exclusionist logics are underlying this ban?

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“Eat like a queen for free” – dumpster diving and wasteful consumer culture
Nov11

“Eat like a queen for free” – dumpster diving and wasteful consumer culture

More than 50% of produced food is wasted and some urban “divers” search for this waste. They explore dark courtyards of supermarkets and lay the dining table with the eatable content of trash bins.

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