PhD project and research
My research investigates how societies via financial services assess and manage, and thereby produce, natural catastrophe risks and the climate crisis.
It proposes an approach that conceptualises natural catastrophe, climate crisis, society, and financial markets as phenomena of the Anthropocene (the present planetary era in which human-environmental interaction cannot be separated in their impact on Earth Systems).
The focus is finance’s knowledge production, i.e. epistemic practices, on disaster risk: the practice of catastrophe modelling, by which catastrophe is turned into a quantifiable financial good. I draw on the concept of ‘performativity’ from science and technology studies, which argues that knowledge production is an active part not only in epistemic processes but also in ontological becoming of the socio-material world (i.e. the shaping of social and physical reality).
With this framework and original empirical research, I show how catastrophe modelling and finance not only assess and financialise disaster and climate risks, but by doing so actively create and shape catastrophe. Disasters emerge here not simply as ‘natural’ phenomena but as not necessarily intentionally yet actively produced Anthropocene socio-material catastrophes.
This qualitative study investigates earth systems sciences (such as meteorology, seismology or earthquake engineering), stochastic modelling, and finance, to understand and explain how catastrophe modelling on a practical level functions. This enables the study to, then, critically analyse and explain how these organisational, technical and material practices play out on the societal level by feeding back into how societies (intentionally and unintentionally) create, maintain and change socio-material Anthropocene catastrophe and climate crisis.
My research seeks to both broaden the scope of sociological analysis and to go beyond disciplinary boundaries including science and technology studies, social studies of finance, organisational, market and risk studies, and scholarship on the Anthropocene combined with an ethnographic methodology.
The literature and research in sociology on natural catastrophes has sometimes been rather limited despite continuous and intensifying natural disasters around the world. And although there is a range of research in the wider social sciences (more in economics and political economy than in sociology) on financial markets’ attempts to digest and manage the climate crisis, it has largely concentrated mainly on individual case studies and econometric models, or rather high-level perspectives on finance as yet another form of financialising societal conduct and/or ‘nature’.
My conceptual approach and empirical research contribute to the field of study of disaster and climate risk. One way of achieving this is, for instance, to aim at opening-up avenues for different disciplines to feed into each other’s expertise.
My conceptual framework bridges across disciplinary boundaries by e.g. allowing economics and finance to tap into broader perspectives of societal vulnerabilities and challenges in the Anthropocene, which also take actual social and physical environments into account.
Conversely, my empirical research aims at enabling to better understand and open-up the sometimes very complex and shielded workings and practices in the financial markets and catastrophe-related risk management and sciences to the social sciences for deeper engagement and awareness of these fields.
- PhD Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK (ongoing since 2016)
- MSc Economy, Risk and Society (Economic Sociology), London School of Economics and Political Science, UK (2014)
- BA Sociology (minor Psychology), Universität Hamburg, Germany (2012)
Sociology 1a: The Sociological Imagination: Individuals and Society (SCIL08004), tutorial, essay assessment and marking; 1st year UG main lecture, winter semester 2018; University of Edinburgh
Sociology 1a: The Sociological Imagination: Individuals and Society (SCIL08004), tutorial, essay assessment and marking; 1st year UG main lecture, winter semester 2017; University of Edinburgh
Organisational and Personnel Psychology, co-lecturing and coursework assessments; 3rd year UG seminar; summer semester 2013; University of Applied Administrative Science Hannover
Research Methods, co-lecturing and coursework assessments; 3rd year UG seminar; summer semester 2013; University of Applied Administrative Science Hannover
Statistics, co-lecturing and coursework assessments; 3rd year UG seminar; summer semester 2013; University of Applied Administrative Science Hannover
Social Theory II, tutorial, essays assessment, and marking written examinations; 2nd year UG main lecture; winter semester 2010; University of Hamburg
Social Theory I, tutorial, essays assessment, and marking written examinations; 1st year UG main lecture; winter semester 2009; University of Hamburg
Awards, Fellowships and research positions
Research Fellow in UKRI FLF project "Management Insights for Tackling Grand Challenges: The Case of Climate-Related Financial Risks in the Financial Investment Industry" at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick (since November 2020)
Research Assistant at University of Edinburgh Business School, University of Edinburgh (2019-2020)
Visiting Scholar at the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies, The New School for Social Research, The New School, New York (Spring 2019)
Visiting Scholar at the Center on Organizational Innovation, Columbia University, New York (Spring 2018)
UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Overseas Institutional Visit Award (2019)
UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Overseas Field Research Award (2018)
UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Doctoral Studentship Award (2017-2019)
The University of Edinburgh Graduate School of Social and Political Science Special Award 2017 (2017-2019)
Management Consultant (corporate ethnographies; developing IT-based performance management systems; executive HR and organisational strategy projects); freelance (ongoing since 2014)
Head of Product Development (qualitative methods tools for recruiting and performance management); Referenzcheck GmbH, Hamburg (2016 - 2018)
HR and Management Consulting; Kienbaum GmbH, Hamburg (2010 – 2012)
Conferences, Talks & Publications
"Curating disaster: a way to turn science into action in times of the Corona pandemic". Julius Kob (2020), Journal of Cultural Economy, 13(5), pp. 642-651.
“Realising natural disaster: a financial ontology of catastrophe”. Julius Kob. July 2020. Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Annual Meeting 2020, (digital conference).
“An Oasis of practice: platform-ing natural catastrophe”. Julius Kob. July 2020. Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Annual Meeting 2020, (digital conference).
Invited and participated at "Cyber Insurance and Resilience: A Workshop for Researchers and Practitioners" at University of Pennsylvania (Carey Law School & Wharton Business School), Philadelphia.
"Demarcating a financial ontology of catastrophe". Julius Kob. April 2019. "NSSR Sociology Conference“ at The New School for Social Research, The New School, New York, USA.
"A sociological introduction to catastrophe risk finance and the socio-materiality of catastrophe". Julius Kob. January 2019. Guest lecture in PG course "Ökonomische Lösungen für soziale Probleme? Ökonomisierung und Nachhaltigkeit" (Economisation and Sustainability) at University of Hamburg, Germany.
"A Nature of risk: an attempt of demarcating a financial ontology of catastrophe". Julius Kob. December 2018. "Futures of Finance and Society" conference at University of Edinburgh, UK.
"Brave New World? Catastrophe Modelling and Capital Markets". Julius Kob. February 2018. "Performativity and Governance of Actuarial Models" conference at Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Collège d'études mondiales, Paris, France.
"Value-at-Risk: Infrastructural Devices and the Obduracy of Financial Market Practice". Julius Kob & Arjen van der Heide. November 2017. "Intersections of Finance and Society" conference at City, University of London, UK.
"Catastrophe Modelling in Reinsurance and its Future in the Capital Markets". Julius Kob. April 2017. "New Directions Conference" at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK.
“Chains of Value: How Intermediaries Evaluate Financial Instruments” Conference at SSPS, University of Edinburgh. Co-organiser. May 2017.
“Making a Market for Acts of God: The Practice of Risk Trading in the Global Reinsurance Industry (Book Review)”. Julius Kob (2017), Organization, 24(6), pp. 955-958.
“Getting the Trembling Mountain to the Market: A History of Catastrophe Modelling and the Emergence of a New Disaster Risk Market”. Julius Kob. March 2015. “Financialisation of Nature” Conference at STEPS Centre & CGPE, University of Sussex, UK.