School of Social and Political Science

Julius Kob

Job Title

PhD student

Photo
Julius Kob
Mobile telephone number
+44 (0) 7824 086951

Research interests

Research interests

Conferences, Talks & Publications

"A multi-sited team ethnography of 'Financially redesigning the Anthropocene'". Katharina Dittrich & Julius Kob. October 2021. Talk given at the Ethnography Atelier, (digital presentation).

"Financially redesigning the Anthropocene: the role of infrastructural work for climate risks and climate impact". Katharina Dittrich & Julius Kob. June 2021. Sub-theme: Financial Markets and Corporate Sustainability, EGOS  2021, (digital conference).

"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.

Background

PhD project and research

My research investigates how societies via financial services assess and manage, and thereby co-produce, natural catastrophe  and climate risks.

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). Here, my research focus is finance’s knowledge production, i.e. epistemic practices, on disaster and climate risks, which enable, for better or worse, to turn elements of these Anthropocene fields into finanical objects. My PhD project focusses on financial knowledge production on 'natural' catastrophes, while my postdoctoral research with Dr Katharina Dittrich at Warwick Business School investigates financial knoweldge production on the climate more broadly.

Summary of my PhD project and its findings:

Realising Catastrophe: the Financial Ontology of the Anthropocene

In the late 1980s, mathematical models, so-called ‘catastrophe models’, were brought into everyday use in the insurance industry, a financial sector that is fundamental for how market societies’ manage and mitigate risks. These models simulate natural disasters, such as large earthquakes or storms. Because more and more such disasters occur, the models solve a growing problem: to know how much damage and financial loss a disaster would amass before it actually happens. This is important for insurance, who needs to know about possible future loss so it can calculate the price for insurance policies, determine how much funds it needs to save to pay for possible costs of insureds, and to stay financially afloat and overall profitable.

By empirically investigating these models and their use via qualtitative means (interviews, observatinos, documents), my research shows three things. First, it provides a historical account of the emergence, developments and integration of catastrophe modelling into use in financial services from the 1980s until today, a practice which fundamentally redefined – and in part even created – a global financial market for trading natural disaster risk. Second, and more importantly, the research shows how by making them calculable, natural disasters have become a financial good that underpins the market-oriented way in which (primarily western) societies deal with such large environmental threats. Third, and most importantly, the study argues that natural catastrophes are, in fact, not ‘natural’ but are fundamentally created by society. Humans design their own environments, most importantly where and how buildings and settlements are built and maintained, with which natural phenomena such as storms or earthquakes interact. In other words, without us there would be nothing for these phenomena to interact with and, therefore, no catastrophe would occur. Because you almost always need insurance to buy and build a house, a factory, a road, etc. and it often has a say in how you do it, finance contributes to our human-made environments in important ways.

Catastrophe modelling, by producing knowledge in form of virtual catastrophe in mathematical models, then, plays a major role in how finance helps design environments with respect to disasters and, therefore, helps to co-produce actual catastrophes in the first place. The important role that finance plays in social life in general, this study shows, also takes place in the ways how ‘natural’ disasters manifest and play out not only socially but also materially, not only virtually but also actually, in real environments.

Adding conceptual depth and fine-grained empirical detail to literature on the financialisation-Anthropocene nexus, the study asks us to reconsider the boundaries between economic representations of the world and the meaning and occurrence of catastrophes in market societies. In an age of anthropogenic climate change, this research also serves as an analytical and historical underpinning of epistemic practices in what is currently emerging as 'climate finance'. Therefore, the main finding of this study, and basis for my extended ongoing research, is the following: In environments that are social, material and natural at the same time (i.e., ‘Anthropocene’), that what a catastrophe and/or climate crisis actually is (i.e., ‘ontologically’) is constituted also by finance. This ‘financial ontology of the Anthropocene’ is what this approach suggests to add to our understanding of catastrophe and climate crisis.

 

Supervision

Qualifications

  • 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)

Teaching experience

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 "Financially redesigning the Anthropocene: Investigating tools, data, and practices for climate risks and targets" 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)

Professional involvement

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)

Works within