PODCAST SERIES – CoHearence, exploring the intersections of history, culture, and the environment

Podcast #1: The role of melancholy and mourning in the field of environmental studies

Discussions about melancholy and mourning pop up in a wide range of disciplines. For scholars in environmental studies, understanding these concepts is important as we try to figure out how to deal with the unprecedented environmental losses of our time. In the first part of this two-part episode of CoHearence, we explore the history of melancholia and why it’s important for thinking about environmental issues. Faced with an increasing amount of environmental destruction and frightening levels of species extinction, we will ask how we might begin to learn to grieve the lost objects everywhere around us. Featuring professors Cate Sandilands and Peter Timmerman from the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University, and Susan Moore a part-time faculty member at FES and psychoanalytical candidate at the Toronto Psychoanalytical Institute, we’ll map out Freud’s thinking on mourning and melancholy and draw links to our current environmental state. If we think of our culture as a melancholic culture, how might we better understand commodity fetishism, the commodification of environmental loss, and where to go from here?

Works Cited

  • Braun, Bruce. The Intemperate Rainforest: Nature, Culture and Power on Canada’s West Coast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
  • Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.
  • Eng, David L and David Kazanjian eds. Loss: The Politics of Mourning. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
  • Freud, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id. 4th ed. London: Hogarth Press, 1947.
  • Freud, Sigmund. (1917). “Mourning and Melancholia.” In The Standard Edition of The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916) London: Hogarth Press, 1953. 237-258.
  • Kristeva, Julia. Black Sun. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
  • Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2010
  • Pensky, Max. Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.
  • Radden, Jennifer ed. The Nature of Melancholy: From Aristotle to Kristeva. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • von Unwerth, Matthew. Freud’s Requiem: Mourning, Memory, and the Invisible History of a Summer Walk. London: Continuum Books, 2006.

Music Credits

Other Contributor(s):

  • Sean Kheraj
  • Susan Moore
  • Cate Sandilands
  • Peter Timmerman

Citation: Di Battista, Amanda and Andrew Mark, “Melancholy, Mourning, and Environmental Thought: Part 1 Making Loss the Centre” CoHearence. 7 February 2012

About the Series
We proceed from the assumption that as John Livingston argued, “There is no technological solution to a moral problem,” or, as Aldus Huxley put it, “Nothing short of everything will really do.” Environmental concerns demand real cultural change, and our hope is to seek out that change by telling histories and stories that disrupt hegemonic narratives. By privileging ideas, experiments, and accounts that explore the state of the environmental movement, we hope to provide a piece of the change that we need.

CoHearence is an opportunity for listening and learning. We bring together voices from Toronto and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University (FES) to explore the relationship between cultural practices and our environment. We hope to help connect people and academics inside and outside of NiCHE together through common interests. Our main goal is to create an opportunity for the public at large to gain an insight into some of the conversations that are happening in places like FES.

Our series is hosted on Sean Kheraj’s NiCHE podcast, Nature’s Past. The themes we explore in multi-part episodes include The Art of Melancholy and Mourning, Protest and Resistance, Food Justice, and Literature including a review of the Green Worlds/Green Words conference.

CoHearence represents a collaboration between graduate students and faculty at FES. Because York University includes a population of well over 40,000 commuting individuals, podcasts (free, downloadable radio-like broadcasts) offer a unique opportunity for networking and learning while in transit. People can access podcasts on the internet using a computer or mobile device. Many universities and institutions are offering publicly available podcasts these days, and in the fall of 2010, Andrew Mark and Amanda Di Battista combined their skills in audio production and script to propose this project with the support of their PhD supervisors, Catriona Sandilands and Peter Timmerman.

In addition to producing the series, we have collaborated with the FES Summer Institute and FES Lunchtime Arts and Environment Series to offer workshops on podcasting.