Geographers have yet to explore fully the changing ways in which societies relate to the seasons. This is somewhat surprising when research on seasonality has the potential to shape an important and contextually sensitive approach to the ways in which people live with the climate. Indeed an exploration of seasons might serve as something of a touchstone in terms of how people relate to climate today and how they might come to live with climates of the future. Across the western world many lifestyles are becoming deseasonal as people choose to spend more and more of their time indoors within air conditioned environments. Yet some argue the effects of seasons are increasingly important as higher summer temperatures make particular forms of mortality and morbidity more common during this time. There are also concerns about winter with regard to how various groups cope with cold and how they could pass through this time more effectively. Meanwhile a variety of public promotions encourage us to link our lives more closely to the seasons. Sustainability agendas sometimes promote seasonally attuned living as a means of achieving a more authentically local form of existence in terms of food consumption and other activities. Yet commercial interests regarding clothing and lifestyles use the same strategy to sell products and services we might not otherwise want or need. There are many reasons why we might be interested in seasons.
Cultural historians have occasionally speculated about the dwindling degrees of seasonal experience associated with the human migration to cities. Stehr (1997) contends that an increasingly indoor urban existence may bring an increased fascination with weather and catastrophic climate events. Kammen (2004) argues that the resulting uniformity of experience breeds the desire for seasonal symbolism as a means of coming to terms with our corporeal existence. The argument sustaining this proposed session is that, in order to move beyond speculation, we should examine how social relations with the seasons are organised and represented both today and in the past and in various societies across the globe. This session will therefore provide a forum for geographers and others interested in the seasons to come together. This is a potentially important research topic and it could usefully be enriched by a number of conceptual and empirical approaches at this stage. Our aim is to explore these issues and thereby initiate a new conversation about how an explicit focus on seasons could enrich various policy and academic agendas.
Though we do not seek to limit the focus at this stage, possible papers might:
1. explore how a focus on the seasons might enrich and develop established interests in climate change and processes of adaptation to climate change
2. discuss the ways in which geographers have examined the seasons in the past and how they are represented within wider society today
3. conceptualise how the seasons should be understood according to the materiality associated with their experience in terms of weather and other encounters
4. provide empirical cases of how particular groups manage their seasonal experience, how they have done so in the past, and how they could be encouraged to do so better
5. think about how a focus upon seasons might advance our understanding of nature and how its particular component parts can be accounted for
6. explore the season as a particular form of experienced rhythm that necessarily intersects with a variety of other social temporalities
7. consider seasonality in terms of how it is marketed and practised within processes of food production, fashion retailing and other businesses
8. reflect on the policy potential of research work explicitly concerned with seasonal change in contemporary society
Titles and abstracts (200 words) should be emailed to Russell (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 23 January 2009. We would also welcome initial expressions of interest and ideas, so feel free to get in touch.