10/10/2018 Amelia F. Rauser

Faculty Humanities Research Colloquium: ENVIRONMENTS

We often evoke the vocabulary of crisis when speaking about the Humanities—and justifiably so—but the existential challenge to the Humanities is often shadowed by two other urgent, and frequently interconnected, crises: the global migration crisis and the environmental crisis.  

Partly in response to the ecological crisis, the field of Environmental Humanities has emerged as a multidisciplinary dialogue that engages with philosophy, environmental history, critical geography, cultural anthropology, and literary and media eco-critical approaches, in order to examine critically the relationship between humans and the multiplicity of their environments.  This plurality is reflected in our different uses of the term “environment” itself, which can refer equally, for example, to a cultural context, a landscape, and an ecosystem, and include human, non-human, or post-human factors. Issues of environmental justice are also multi-dimensional; the projected border wall between Mexico and the United States would not only affect human migration patterns but the movements of countless other species as well.

Faculty involved in the colloquium come from a diversity of disciplines: art history, literary studies, environmental studies, religious studies, anthropology, theater.  Members will engage numerous questions: How have artists and writers represented the natural world throughout history? How can ecocritical approaches move beyond an anthropocentrism? How have humans tried to shape the landscapes they inhabit in order to respond to their economic, social, political, and esthetic needs? What are the connections between specific cultural environments and their artistic and literary productions?  Has the impact of climate change on global migration movements generated new ways of thinking about domestic and international “migrants,” “refugees,” and “displaced persons”? How can scientific, social-scientific, and humanistic discourses interact productively to foster public awareness of the environmental challenges we face? How can humanists navigate the disciplinary and professional challenges of environmental scholarship?  Can the public impact of environmental humanities help energize the humanities at large? 

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