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Veranstaltungsreihe und internationales Symposium: „Ice (St)Ages 2: Heroes on Ice? Conquests and Doomsday Visions“


Since the great expansionist ambitions of Europe, the idea of eternal ice has functioned as a media stage for heroic Western narratives. In reality, however, the ever-changing shape of icy polar regions jeopardised any strategies of staging and witnessing. For example, the impossibility of permanently leaving traces in the ice during the multiple trials of conquering the North Pole let to an ambiguous explorer narrative that still exists today. These narratives rely on the ignorance of traces of those who were already there. Thus, we ask: what kind of evidence and mediation is needed for a heroic deed to become accepted, influential and remembered?

Since the pole expeditions, the notion of a first-time occupation of virgin snowy areas – emanating from a masculine heroic image – is contrasted with the demonic unpredictability of ice. It finds an echo in science fiction stories, in which the extreme conditions of the polar regions gave rise to imaginary concepts of apocalyptic ice deserts. Here, the last survivor makes his grand entrance without an audience. If one of the core ideas of heroisation is that heroes cannot proclaim themselves as such, but are fit into their roles by media and the dynamics that emanate from them, then the question arises whether or not apocalyptic heroism is conceivable in fiction alone. Today, not only films, comics, interactive games convey an idea of heroism, but increasingly social media. As a consequence, we understand the different staging strategies of heroes as a productive process which blurs the boundaries between documentation, science and science fiction.

This online symposium explores the western and gender-specific shaping of polar heroes on ice as a performative and highly unstable construction. This idea is accompanied by an investigation of national, economic and ecological interests performed with ice by using its visual and sensual qualities. Overwhelming aesthetics, immersion effects and doomsday scenarios are rooted in a culture of spectacles, which will be investigated from the 19th century to its emergence in contemporary scientific communication, Post-Anthropocene Art and popular entertainment. The aim is to explore the use of ice – but also its agency – as a dynamic staging strategy for global (i.e. ecological, historical and cultural) change.

Ice (St)Ages 2 will be hosted by the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 948 “Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms: Transformations and Conjunctures from Antiquity to the Modern Day” of the University of Freiburg, Germany.

Register here from 1 July 2021:






SFB 948 „Helden – Heroisierungen – Heroismen“