Humanities Without Walls grant!

Political Ecologies working group that has been supported by and hosted at UIC’s Institute for the Humanities, won a major Humanities Without Walls Environmental Humanities grant in 2016, as part of the research challenge “Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate“. This multi-disciplinary collaborative project, entitled Political Ecology as Practice: A Regional Approach to the Anthropocene engages faculty and graduate students from the fields of Art History, Art, Anthropology, English, Rhetoric, Environmental Sciences, Latin American Studies, Urban Studies and Geography from the University of Illinois at Chicago in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read the press release.

The project will host its first academic gathering  with a Master Class and a Workshop with Prof. Bruno Latour during the week of October 30-November 4, 2017.

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Political Ecologies next meeting: November 16, 3-5 pm on Latour’s Politics of Nature

Dear Colleagues,

I was thrilled with the engaging and enthusiastic debate we had on Arturo Escobar‘s Territories of Difference (October 19, 2015). I was particularly happy to see that everyone found it provocative and Escobar’s text has given us an opportunity to unpack a number of core issues in our political ecology agenda this year. A second fabulous event happened this week and that was Heather Sullivan‘s talk on the “Temporalities of the Anthropocene” and her excellent work on Goethe, “dark pastoralism,” ecocriticsm and the post-human. Many from our group attended this excellent lecture and the discussion afterwards. I am particularly impressed by her concept of “dark pastoralism” and would like to continue thinking about it. Here is some more of her amazing work, which I will add to our bibliography.

At the end of the Escobar meeting, we agreed to read the first two chapters from Bruno Latour’s Politics of Nature, and I attach them here. Those of you who are willing to venture into the other chapters are of course always welcome. I am attaching here a pdf for: “Introduction: What is to be Done with Political Ecology?” and also Chapter 1:”Why Political Ecology Has to let Go of Nature?”.

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Towards the end of our discussion on Territories of Difference, Ralph Citron has perceptively pointed out that one of the issues we are debating here is the question of the possibility of radical otherness and radically different ontologies, and whether this is a romantic-utopic ideal or whether it is a light of hope for the ecological troubles of the late capitalist dystopia. Likewise, in page 6 of Escobar’s Territories of Difference, he asks “are there novel approaches in social theory that provide better accounts in this regard, perhaps because they are based not only on more inclusive epistemologies but on more diverse ontologies?” and asks whether we should face a radical reorientation of theory. Perhaps we could read Latour in light of this question, and also in the light of David Wise‘s really thoughtful comments on the Nature chapter of Escobar.

Our meeting will take place on November 16, 2015 from 3-5 pm, same place, i.e. Institute for the Humanities.

 

  • Date(s): Monday, 11/16 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Campus Address: Lower Level of Stevenson Hall
  • Address: 701 South Morgan, Lower Level / Stevenson Hall
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Contact: Linda Vavra
  • Email: huminst@uic.edu
  • Website: http://huminst.uic.edu/
  • Phone: (312) 996-6352

Political Ecologies: Nature, Place, Heritage Working Group

This is a working group and platform of debate on political ecology at the Institute for the Humanities of the University of Illinois at Chicago for the 2015-2016 Academic Year, initiated and chaired by faculty members Ömür Harmanşah (Department of Art History) and Molly Doane (Department of Anthropology).

Bruno Latour famously opens the introduction to his Politics of Nature (2004: 1), with a radical statement: “What is to be done with political ecology? Nothing. What is to be done? Political ecology!” Political ecology is a rapidly growing field of research and political platform concerning the place-based struggles of local communities across the world in coming to terms with development projects and the effects of globalization. However well intentioned they may be, development projects often challenge the local communities’ rights to local resources such as water, land, clean air, ecological biodiversity and cultural heritage. Political ecology offers a platform for public debate for academics to reconnect with communities and activists globally, to ground their work in such engagements with place-based or environmental struggles for sustainability and basic human rights.

Take, for example, the construction of a major hydro-electric dam on a river in the Middle East or East Asia. A large scale dam project typically dislocates local communities or take away their agricultural and pastoral land, alter agricultural practices, cause regional and local climatic fluctuations, influence the regime of water resources, alter plant life and indigenous animal communities, and lead to the destruction of archaeological sites. It is therefore essential to engage such a complex phenomenon through a rigorous collaboration of natural scientists, cultural heritage specialists, development studies experts, archaeologists, anthropologists, artists, political scientists, and human rights activists.

Political Ecologies Working Group is a cross-disciplinary platform for faculty and students who are interested in engaging with questions that relate to social movements, the environment, biodiversity, ecological activism, human rights, cultural heritage, environmental justice, and public humanities. It responds to the desire of UIC faculty and students for engagement and collaboration with local communities in the global contexts of development. The Working Group aims to build for a greater UIC-based Research Initiative that will open to debate the role of the academic world in the invariably politically charged arenas of cultural discourse concerning life, sustainability, environment, the diverse meanings of natural resources and cultural heritage in different territories, and the ethics of fieldwork in the 21st century.

The Working Group meets monthly for critical discussion of specific readings, or for workshops and panel discussions around the work of invited speakers from within and outside campus throughout the AY 2015-2016. With the funding provided by the Institute for the Humanities, at least one world-reknown speaker will be brought to campus on political ecology. This newly formed academic community will also plan for a larger academic conference on the topic to take place in the following academic year (2016-2017).

For questions contact Ömür Harmanşah (omur at uic.edu) or Molly Doane (mdoane at uic.edu)