Isabell Schrickel Former Research Fellow

Isabell Schrickel
October - December 2019


Isabell Schrickel is a PhD candidate at the Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation (Leuphana University /Arizona State University). She studied Media Theory, Cultural History and Communication at Humboldt and Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Basel and was a fellow at the Harvard Department of the History of Science. She received her master’s degree with a thesis on the media history of weather forecasting and her PhD research is focused on the history of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the co-evolution of systems modeling and sustainability thinking during the Cold War.
Dated from 2019

Fields of research

Contemporary history and history of knowledge of environmental sciences, future sciences, history and epistemology of digital media in the sciences and humanities, sustainability

IKKM Research Project

Sustainability as operative ontology between turning back and drafting the future

The concept of sustainability, condemned in 1996 by one of the most prominent environmental activists in the NY Times as "buzzless buzzword", has proven an amazing persistence over the past decades. Precisely because sustainability is a frequently ridiculed but nevertheless ubiquitous empty phrase, we may be dealing with a basic concept in which the transformation of modernity becomes tangible. Sustainability appears in the titles of countless new scientific journals and courses of study, governments and companies are expecting sustainability strategies, and on a global level the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
On closer examination, the specific relation between past, present and future within an ecosystem that the term makes has long been addressed as a new time regime. Already in 1989, Helga Nowotny stated that the "environmental loops of human action become time loops that affect the present". Meanwhile, the term anthropocene elevates this relationship to a geological epoch framed by the narrative of great acceleration and the normative orientation towards climate or developmental goals. How can the concept of sustainability be located in late modernism? How can the tension between the normative state (which is both historical and in the future) and the process (e.g. as transformation) be conceived? So, to what extent are we dealing with an operative ontology and which operations of recursion, reversion, preservation, reflection and modelling make it possible? How can sustainability be conceived as the concept of the operative interconnection of inventory thinking (self-preservation, conservation, reflection) and future design?

Selected Publications

Overcoming Cold War Science: Problems as Epistemic Designs around 1970. In: Hörl / Leistert / Savransky (Eds.): Thinking the Problematic. Bielefeld: transcript 2019 (forthcoming).
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. In: Frank Reichherzer / Emmanuel Droit / Jan Hansen (Eds.): Den Kalten Krieg vermessen. Über Reichweite und Alternativen einer binären Ordnungsvorstellung. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2018, 199-214.
Control versus Complexity: Approaches to the Carbon Dioxide Problem at IIASA. In: Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 3 (2017): Special Issue Trading Zones of Climate Change, ed. by Isabell Schrickel, Christoph Engemann, 140-159.
Modeling Normativity in Sustainability – A Comparison of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the Papal Encyclical (with G. Schmieg, E. Meyer, J. Herberg, G. Caniglia, U. Vilsmaier, M. Laubichler, E. Hörl, D. Lang). In: Sustainability Science 12/37 (2017).