On the Utopia of the Car-Free World

My current main research project is to write a book about the car as a metaphor for our toxic entanglements with modern life-styles. The conference series exhausted entanglements and the performance project Diverting the Public Space is closely related to that project.

To learn more about this project, see the Keynote I gave in May 2022 below. If you are interested, I can share more material about this ongoing research upon request. The image on the left is from another side-project with Victor Kössl in which we are working on an essayistic film about the same topic.

You can also look at / listen to:

Abstract of the Project (2022)

The Utopia of the Car-free World – Investigating Exhausted Entanglements to Modern Ways of Life

The climate catastrophe is on everyone's lips and yet far too little is happening. In the project presented here, I try to philosophically and affect-theoretically fathom the problem of being stuck in ecologically catastrophic, "modern" ways of living on the basis of a concrete object - the automobile. By using the car as a philosophical research object, the aim is to explore the extent to which positions once theoretically developed in classical modern philosophy (such as Cartesianism) have become inscribed (and perpetuated) in our environment as a material practice. If the basic tenor of current New Materialism debates is correct in pointing out that our current environmental problem is rooted in the philosophical choices made in the early modern period, the project of a material-related cultural philosophy presented here would like to examine how this once "merely" theoretical problematisation of the material environment could have become an environmental problem of planetary proportions by means of devices such as the car.

My research project is based on the assumption that with the car, a paradigmatic prosthetic and enabling machine has been developed that reorganises human sensory and affective regimes according to the Cartesian model and thus demands a kind of lived Cartesianism for human partaking in the modern world, regardless of one's own discursive attitude. This creates a self-referential logic that binds the subjects of modern lifeworlds to a modern cosmology. Since this kind of access to the world reveals itself to be ecologically catastrophic, a structure of dependency is established that is similar to Lauren Berlant's “cruel optimism”, but is expanded to include ecological, cultural and philosophical aspects. Following the concept of the "Homogenocene", which underlines the increasing homogenisation of formerly diverse (human as well as non-human) ways of life as the core problem of the Anthropocene, I would like to problematise the car, including its infrastructure, the economy made possible by it and "automotive subjectivity" as a central actor in the Homogenocene.

For this purpose, the discursive fields of the "Anthropocene" and "Automobilities", which have so far communicated little with each other, are put into dialogue. Questions of the feasibility and plausibility of ecological change are thus expanded to include a philosophical questioning of the reasons for and the disruptive potential of our persisting in a catastrophic status quo. In doing so, I would like to further develop my proposed concept of "resilience of modernity" and apply it to our anthropogenically modified environment as well as our entanglement with it. A speculative "utopia of the car-free world" in the tradition of New Materialism will be developed as a guideline for the investigation in order to open up a speculative and nevertheless widely accessible space for thinking about the conditionality of our present world.