Here you can find all the latest news about the junior research group and its members.

„Empty Promises and self-fulfilling prophecies. Bioeconomy (and circular economy) from a critique of growth perspective” – that was the title of Jana Holz’ keynote, that she held in the online workshop “potentials of the concept of a circular economy“ on 24 March 2021.

The workshop was part of the discussion series “degrowth – vision of the future or an illusion?” organized by the AK Wien and Degrowth Vienna.

Jana Holz takes part in the 3rd International Forest Policy Meeting (IFPM3) ( on March 17 and 18, 2021. The event is organized by the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy, University of Freiburg together with IUFRO Division 09.05.

In the panel “Global Forest Bioeconomy: Continuity or a Pathway to Transformations?” Jana gives a lecture on “Forest-based Bioeconomy in Finland: Extractivist Loopholes?“. She also takes part in the 3MT Competition (Three Minute Thesis Competition), where she will present the topic of her doctorate to a wide audience within three minutes. Here is more information about the 3MT competition idea.

Matthias Schmelzer participates at the workshop „The Ecology of Economic Thought“ at the Weatherhead Center/Harvard University, 03 Feb 2021

He will present his paper „The Critique of Growth in Historical Context“. The workshop will run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Please register here

„The Ecology of Economic Thought“ is a five-part online workshop of the Canada Program at Weatherhead Center of the Harvard University. See more

New Publication by Dennis Eversberg

Eversberg, D., 2021. “From democracy at others’ expense to externalization at democracy’s expense: Property-based personhood and citizenship struggles in organized and flexible capitalism” Anthropological Theory. Special Issue: Democracy in Liberal Post-Growth Societies. doi:10.1177/1463499620977995

Abstract: This contribution investigates the anthropological foundations of European democracies’ continuous entanglement with economic and military expansionism and a hierarchical separation between public and private spheres, both of which have enabled the appropriation of nature and others’ labour as property on which citizens’ abstract personhood could be founded. Drawing on an argument made by David Graeber, it is suggested that modern European history can be interpreted as a process of the ‘generalization of avoidance’, in which such abstract, property-based forms of personhood, which were initially what defined the superior party in relations of hierarchy, came to be a model for the figures of market participant and citizen within the spheres of formal equal exchange of economy and politics. From this perspective, and building on an account of different stages of capitalist history as ‘subjectivation regimes’, the article then analyses the transition from the ‘exclusive democracy’ of post-war organized capitalism in Western Europe, in which citizens’ entitlement, through the collective guarantees of ‘social property’ (Castel), increasingly allowed individualized competitive practices of status attainment and gave rise to individualist movements for extended citizenship, to current-day flexible capitalism. This regime, seizing on those calls and instrumentalizing the desires for competitive status consumption, has effected a broad restructuring of the social as a unified field of competition in which new hierarchies and inequalities materialize in global chains of appropriation, causing a ‘dividual’ fragmentation of property-based personhood and generating calls for responsible citizenship as an inherent counter-movement. In conclusion, it is suggested that anthropologists have much to contribute to investigating the possibility of democratic, post-capitalist ‘anthropologies of degrowth’.

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New Publication by Lilian Pungas

Pungas, L., 2021. “Caring dachas – Food self-provisioning in Eastern Europe through the lens of care“, in: Nelson, A., Edwards, F. (Hg.): Food for Degrowth. Perspectives and Practices. Routledge, London & New York, 59-74.

Abstract to the article: The notions of care and stewardship are at the root of all practices concerning food production – from ploughing the soil and sowing, to harvesting, cooking, preserving and composting. Yet, in contrast to cooking, cultivating land is often not perceived as ‘classical’ care work. Instead, care is mostly framed as an interhuman activity concerned with human sustenance and reproduction and therefore, associated mostly with household work, raising children and taking care of the elderly (Waerness 1984; Jochimsen 2003). Given that care remains a rather marginalised category, my goal in this chapter is to reinforce and enrich the discourse on care in degrowth scholarship by demonstrating how food self-provisioning (FSP) in both urban and periurban areas is grounded in ideas of care and stewardship, not only as an interhuman act, but also in connection to the soil and surrounding environment. In this sense, caring means ‘reaching out to something other than the self’ (Tronto 1993, 102) implying a deep empathy with other (living) beings, as well as being followed by some form of action.

Drawing on four of Tronto’s (1993) expressions of care, I demonstrate that, despite seeming ‘irrational’ in economic terms, FSP is essentially a very rational act of care based on a deep understanding of interdependence and mutual vulnerability between humans and nonhuman nature (Gottschlich 2012). Care manifests as reciprocal ‘caring about’, ‘care-giving’ and ‘care-receiving’ with the surrounding environment, the gardener’s community and oneself. In this case study, I explore how notions of care are expressed in FSP, and how they can all be recognised as predominant intrinsic motives behind this practice. In contrast, I display how promises and narratives of industrial agriculture fall into Tronto’s fourth category (‘taking care of’) as rather ‘masculine’, ‘public’ and ‘loud’ manifestations of care. Tronto’s (2013) subsequent, fth, dimension of care (‘caring with’) constitutes a less hierarchical relationship as well as a complex interdependence between both counterparts (care-giver and care-receiver) so might provide an additional (potentially more appropriate) framework for analysing care in FSP practice. However, in this chapter the focus lies on the other four dimensions of care for the sake of nuanced analysis of specic aspects and motives of care practice with regard to FSP.  More Information

Working Paper No. 2 published!

Eversberg, Dennis and Jana Holz. 2020. Empty Promises of Growth: The Bioeconomy and Its Multiple Reality Checks


In this paper, we want to make two arguments. Firstly, we observe that the current trend in official policy concepts and strategies of the bioeconomy is toward a moderation of the promises of economic growth that it has been associated with since the beginning of this millennium. We argue that this process of moderation is at least partly due to the effects of a series of ‘reality checks’ that the different existing strands of research on the bioeconomy have (willingly or unwillingly) subjected the promises to, forcing governments to move away from obviously unrealistic visions and adopt more humble ones. We identify four such reality checks, coming from research on (a) bioeconomy discourses and strategies, (b) actors and
interests in the political economy of the bioeconomy, and (c) the economic and biophysical materialities that make up ‘the bioeconomy’. Secondly, we propose that a fourth, sociological reality check is currently being mounted, exposing the social implausibility and democratic illegitimacy of the bioeconomy’s promissory visions. Using survey data from Germany
to develop a provisional analysis of the tensions and conflicts within the population that disagreements about the bioeconomy are embedded in, we suggest putting the bioeconomy in its proper political place as part of the larger societal challenge, rather than promise, of achieving a post-fossil transformation of modern societies.

Our Working Papers

In a nutshell: Material from the Workshop “It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy

The report, presentations and video-contributions of the interdisciplinary workshop held on 7 and 8 October 2020 – read and watch them here.

Dennis Eversberg contributes to the research colloquium of Prof. Lessenich

Dennis Eversberg speaks at the research colloquium of Prof. Dr. Stephan Lessenich on 24 November 2020. More information

Presentation of Lilian Pungas

Lilian Pungas speaks about oil shale extraction and dacha-gardening in Estonia, 26 November 2020

Online Workshop & Lecture “Bioeconomy and Growth”, 7/8 of October 2020

flumen organises the workshop “It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy” on October 7th & 8th, 2020. For more information and programme see here

flumen organises the online lecture and discussion “The policy legend of the circular bioeconomy: A biophysical view of the sustainability predicament” with Mario Giampietro (Barcelona) on October 7th, 2020. For more information see here

Out and about: Lilian Pungas and Jana Holz doing field research

Two of our employees and prospective doctoral students did their field research in Finland and Estonia in the late summer weeks. There are two short reports here: read more

Dennis Eversberg at the Summer School POLITICS, ONTOLOGIES, ECOLOGIES

At this year’s online “Summer School – Politics, Ontologies, Ecologies” from June 29th to July 3rd, 2020 Dennis Eversberg gave a lecture on “Degrowth Mentalities, Degrowth Ontologies”. The “Summer School” is an international podium. Seven scientists presented topics from political ecology and conflicting ontologies in relation to the ecological crisis. The website of the “Summer School” can be found here:

The presentation in English can be downloaded here:


Flumen contributions at the Degrowth Conference 2020

This years Degrowth Conference in Vienna will take place online because of the COVID-19 restrictions. From 29th of May to the 1st of June 2020 there will be workshops and lectures on current debates that relate to degrowth issues. The junior research group flumen will participate with five contributions to the conference:

  • Matthias Schmelzer, together with Nina Treu, Tadzio Müller, Julianna Fehlinger and Brototi Roy, will present the newly published book “Degrowth in Movement(s)” on Friday, May 29th at 11:45 a.m. The book launch takes place in English with German translation.
  • Dennis Eversberg and Melissa Büttner will also give the workshop “Sozial-ökologische Transformation: Mit wem – und gegen wen?” on Friday at 6 p.m. The workshop takes place in German.
  • Dennis Eversberg will then take part in the panel discussion on “Understanding transformations and the role of strategy” at 6.45 p.m. The discussion will take place in English with German translation.
  • On Saturday, May 30th, Matthias Schmelzer will take part in the panel discussion on “Advancing a Degrowth Agenda in the Corona Crisis” at 10 a.m. The discussion will take place in English with German translation.
  • On Sunday, May 31st at 5 p.m., Lilian Pungas together with Susan Andreatta, Christina Plank, Robert Hafner, Mladen Domazet and Branko Ancic will give the workshop: “Restructuring the Third / Corporate Food Regime: How Farmers and the Public are Transforming Food and Agriculture for the Future – Post-Covid-19 “. The workshop takes place in English.

Further information on the conference and a detailed program can be found here:


Building Back Better

Flumen researchers Martin Fritz and Lilian Pungas have participated working on briefing paper that was just published by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll).

The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.

The WEAll collaboration presents “Ten principles for building back better to create wellbeing economies post-covid” which you can find here:

You can read the full paper here


Call for Participation: Contested Society-Nature-Relations – Forest related Emotions, Practices and Conflicts in Times of Societal Change

New Deadline for Cfp: 15.06.2020

International Multidisciplinary Workshop
24th – 25th November 2020
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany

The aim of our workshop is to discuss the changing and contested relationships between individuals, society as a whole, and nature – especially forests – from a multidisciplinary perspective. The varying types of human-forest relationships indicate what forests mean to humans, and they can provide insight into broader underlying ideas and practices of how individuals, communities, and societies relate to nature. Different relationships with the forest (i.e. values, perceptions, decisions, and actions relating to it) are an expression of these society-nature-relations, and in turn, have a formative impact on humans themselves and onto their environment. In this workshop, we want to foster exchange and debates between Finnish and German-speaking researchers working on the cultural and social implications of different types of human-forest relationships. Our perspective focuses on human-forest relations at both, the individual and the societal level, and we are interested in past and present developments as well as possible futures.

We welcome contributions from different academic fields of social sciences and humanities, including (but not limited to) Sociology, Political Science, Human and Critical Geography, Social and Political Ecology, History, Political Economy, Philosophy and Cultural Studies. Contributions may be based on theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical investigations, and comparative or in-depth studies.

The workshop will be held in English in Jena (Germany), hopefully with participants being present. We will enable online participation if necessary. In the meantime, the coordination team continues to closely follow the development of the situation and will make further decisions accordingly as needed.

If you are interested in contributing to the workshop, we invite you to submit an abstract of max. 500 words to until June 15st, 2020. Draft papers or presentations will be due until November 1st, 2020. Workshop discussions will be based on these draft papers or presentations, aiming to refine them for possible publication.

You will find more Information on the ‘Call for Participation’ here.


Call for Abstract: It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy

Extended Deadline until 30th April!

Workshop from 7th – 8th October 2020, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany.

The aim of our workshop is to discuss the relationships between the bioeconomy and economic growth from a multidisciplinary and global perspective. We want to foster an exchange between debates on the ecological and social implications of the bioeconomy and critical debates on sustainable growth, green growth and degrowth.

We welcome contributions from different academic fields such as sociology, political ecology and economy, human and critical geography, social ecology, history, philosophy, economics etc. Contributions may be based on theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical investigations, comparative or in-depth studies.

If you are interested in contributing to the workshop we invite you to submit an abstract of max. 500 words to until April 30, 2020. Draft papers will be due until September 18, 2020. Workshop discussions will be based on the draft papers, aiming to develop them further for a possible publication.

You will find more Information here.

Call for contributions: The bioeconomy as a blueprint for the postfossil society? Contours of the social after coal and oil

A set of sessions at the 7th International Degrowth and 16 th ISEE Joint Conference: Building Alternative Livelihoods in times of ecological and political crisis.
Manchester 1 to 5 September 2020.

We invite you to send us your abstracts of no more than 250 words until March 6, 2020 to:

More Information here.

The event is a collaboration between Junior Research Group Mentalities in Flux, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany and Junior Research Group BioInequalities, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany

Matthias Schmelzer speaks in Colombia

Matthias Schmelzer speaks on Friday, November 22, 11 a.m. (6 p.m. CET) at the “Symposio International: Pensamiento Ambietal y Alternativeas al Desarollo” at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Sede Bogotá (Colombia) about post-growth, decolonial criticism and about a just relationship between the Global South and Global North. He will do that, of course, with close to zero CO2 emissions via video transmission.

Research colloquium

This semester the junior research group flumen offers a research colloquium to present and discuss current research on socio-ecological topics. It is also intended as a meeting place for Master’s students in the field of “Sustainability and social transformation” and others, interested in respective issues. In the following semesters, a regular colloquium programme, including various guest lectures, will be offered with the participation of the other departments of the Institute for Sociology in Jena.

The Research colloquium takes place thurstdays from 2-4 p.m. at the Humboldtstraße 34, Jena

Lilian Pungas as a Guest lecturer at the University of Vienna

flumen researcher Lilian Pungas gave a lecture on 7 November 2019 at the University of Vienna, at the Institute for Political Science as part of their lecture series “Ecological Crisis in Eastern Europe”. Lilian’s lecture was titled “Subsistence farming under high voltage power lines and next to oil shale power plants in Eastern Estonia”. 

Globally seen Estonia extracts of the oil shale, this resulting in very high ecological footprint per capita. For the sake of energy security from its Eastern neighbor (oil shale covers 90% of Estonia’s electricity demand) it accepts as a country an ecologically extremely high price for the extraction of one of the most polluting fossil fuels. Paradoxically, the oil shale extraction itself takes place in Eastern Estonia near Russian border in the region of Ida-Virumaa, where most habitants belong to the Russian-speaking minority, which suffered disproportionally in the 90s due to different economic reforms and the 1992 citizenship law.


UFZ Symposium in Leipzig

Lilian Pungas, Philip Koch and Jana Holz attended the symposium “Resources in Social Science Environmental Research” at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research from the 30th September until the 1st October, 2019 for “flumen”. Approximately 20 junior academics presented and discussed both, material and immaterial, resources and questions such as: how do resources shape the relationship between society and the environment, various dimensions of social inequality regarding the (in)availability and the use of resources, and what constitutes and defines a resource, in general.

Jana Holz in Finland

Jana Holz was from the 12th until the 23rd of August 2019 a visiting scholar at the University of Helsinki, doing research for her dissertation project. In total, she spendt four weeks in the North European country and visited the capital  Helsinki, Tampere, Joensuu and Jyväskvlä. Jana Holz is writing her dissertation on innovations and changes in the Finnish forestry sector with reference to the bioeconomy and its socio-structural significance for transformation processes within the framework of the junior research group flumen.

Lilian Pungas field work in Eastern Estonia

For her dissertation within the junior research group flumen, Lilian Pungas traveled to the region around Narva in North-Eastern Estonia in August 2019. Partly with the help of her translator she conducted interviews with different experts in the bioeconomy sector and/or practitioners of (semi-)subsistence agriculture in Estonian as well as in Russian language.

New book publication from Matthias Schmelzer

New book: “Degrowth/Postwachstum zur Einführung” from Matthias Schmelzer and Andrea Vetter got published in Germany in spring 2019.

Degrowth or post-growth is a dynamic research field and reference point for diverse socio-ecological movements. Degrowth is not just a basic critique of the hegemony of economic growth. It is also a vision for another society that outlines paths to fundamental societal change in the face of climate change and global inequality. This volume is the first attempt to introduce it systematically in German language. The English translation will be following soon.

Workshop: Transitions, ‚pileups‘ and the rule of abstract Energy: Energy regimes and social transformations in and beyond the fossil era, May 15, 2019
Foto:Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU
Foto:Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU

Research Workshop with Éric Pineault (UQAM, Montreal/Kolleg Postwachstumsgesellschaften) in Jena, May 15, 2019

In this workshop, we will discuss several related controversies concerning the relations between changes in the energy basis of modern capitalist societies on the one handand transformations of their social and mental infrastructures on the other hand. In his famous book „Carbon Democracy“, Timothy Mitchell has claimed that the material properties of fossil energy sources shape the social, mental and political structures of the societies using them to a very high degree, pre-forming as it were the opportunities and limits of democratization processes. Against this view, Andreas Malm has objected in „Fossil Capital“ that the takeoff of a coal-based industrial economy in 18th century Britain was not the „work“ of coal as a resource itself, but the outcome of an expansionary social logic and mentality that had been at play long before, and that merely found its preferred medium of abstraction from social and material restraints in the innovation of the steam-powered factory. Larry Lohmann and Nicholas Hildyard have emphasized that „energy“ itself is an abstract concept that, analogous to the logic of exchange value, enables economic actors to disregard social and material limitations to their activities and conceive of them as capable of infinite expansion. How such expansion has been enabled again and again in the course of the past two centuries by adding oil, gas, nuclear and other energy sources to the energetic base has been demonstrated by Vaclav Smil. His empirical analyses of global energy use in the fossil era amount to the thesis that these energy sources, rather than being the drivers of expansion in several stages that societies have successively ‚transitioned‘ through, have in fact progressively ‚piled up‘ to meet a ceaselessly expanding energy demand. Based on texts by these authors, we will discuss these and related issues, with a particular focus on what conclusions may be drawn from these debates in view of the necessity of far-reaching change that societal energy systems will face in the near future if a post-fossil, bio-based economy and society is to be achieved and catastrophic global warming averted.