Creating a Climate for Change: Activism Within and Beyond the Borders of the Classroom
May 28-June 1
University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
This panel explores the ways in which scholars within the Environmental Humanities contribute to the fight for earth sustainability and justice through activist approaches in criticism and teaching that transform human behavior and shape societal attitudes. In the humanities we are too often accused of “navel-gazing,” of being removed from “real world” issues, but the growing field of the Environmental Humanities itself challenges this misconceived notion. Comprised of teachers and critics from a range of academic institutions, humanist disciplines, and cultural backgrounds, this panel collectively raises questions about how humanist study translates into activism and creates change. We are interested in how scholars employ activism in their work—by pushing back on the limits set by the publishing industry about genre and audience; by bringing humanist work to the sciences and demanding to be heard; by engaging critical questions of human behavior and cultural values; by encouraging students to become active citizens. Papers are welcome from any facet of the Environmental Humanities, including (but not limited to) Environmental Justice, Animal Studies, Ecofeminism, the Rhetoric of Science and Technology, Indigenous Ecologies, Ecocriticism, Eco-semantics or Eco-poetics, Environmental History or Anthropology, Visual or Performance Art.
(Photo: Edie Steiner, Text 2: from the series Material Remains, 2003)
In the second part of CoHearence’s look at the 2011 conference, Green Words/Green Worlds: Environmental Literatures and Politics in Canada, we continue our investigation of the relationship between the cultivation of an environmental reading (and writing) practice and engaged eco-politics. Featuring excerpts from the Green Words/Green Worlds opening public poetry panel which included keynote presenters Brian Bartlett, Armand Garnett Ruffo and Rita Wong, we build on our discussion with conference organizers Catriona Sandilands and Ella Soper about why literature is important for environmental thought and action. We explore how and why Canadian ecocritics and poets are engaging with the challenging environmental questions of our time and provide perspectives for rethinking the way we imagine our environment.
(Photo: Edie Steiner, Text 1: from the series Material Remains, 2003)
In the fall of 2011, ecocritics, writers, and poets from across Canada attended a conference at the Gladstone hotel in Toronto. This conference, entitled “Green Words/Green Worlds: Environmental Literatures and Politics in Canada,” focused on the relationship between the cultivation of an environmental reading (and writing) practice and engaged eco-politics. In this CoHearence episode, we’ll use recorded material collected at the conference as well as a follow-up interview with the conference organizers to explore the ways that Canadian ecocritics and poets are engaging with the challenging environmental questions of our time. Featuring conference organizers Catriona Sandilands and Ella Soper as well as keynote presenters Adam Dickinson, Anne, Milne, and Molly Wallace, we’ll ask the question: in a world increasingly characterized by climate change, environmental disasters, and technology, why does literature matter? How can an environmental writing practice be a political act?
(Photo: Edie Steiner, Industrial Ruins at Michipicoten Bay, 2010.)
“My name is this and that and I come from here and there and I practice I don’t know what and I am not myself because I am also my government and I am also my economy and I am very much my one-directional totalitarian culture which subdues me and misuses me and uses and misuses my work to the point where I don’t know where my work is itself or where my work is something other than itself or where my work is the opposite of itself and this one-directional culture uses and misuses not only my production but also my protest against these uses and misuses because my protest is part of its pluralistic glory which is part of its world governing economic order which presents itself as a religion and is as fervently believed in as a religion and extracts from its believers the fanaticism of a fervently believed in religion and the chief characteristic of this self-righteous world governing order is that it is marching on and on and on and on and this marching on and on and on and on has no opposition because it eats opposition for breakfast.” – Peter Schumann, Bread and Puppet
The title of this episode, Resistance for Breakfast: Hegemony, Arts, and Environment, is a playful departure from Peter Schumann’s words, and suggests that, perhaps, we could all use a little more resistance in our diet. We will investigate how hegemonic power manifests itself in environmental art and how art practices can also expose and challenge such power. Hegemony is a social condition in which dominant groups exercise power in all aspects of social reality not through militarized violence but rather through implied means (Mayo, 35). The scholars, activists, and educators we speak with call for resistance to hegemonic power that is not only critical and subversive but also beautiful.
Featuring interviews with FES Professor Deborah Barndt, storyteller and FES contract faculty Chris Cavanagh, FES PhD candidate Heather McLean, and artist and FES PhD candidate Edie Steiner, we will discuss the ways ‘the arts’ reinforce common sense understandings of what constitutes ‘good art.’ We’ll also explore the problematic relationship between large art festivals and local arts movements and suggest ways in which critical environmental art practices can facilitate meaningful activism and create change.