HS5 Environmental Humanities


We propose a one-day symposium focused on the environmental humanities. The environmental humanities is an umbrella term for humanistic approaches to environmental questions employing perspectives from history, philosophy, religious studies, cultural-historical geography, English and textual studies, science and technology studies, and the creative arts (visual, fiction, creative non-fiction). The field attempts to place the various “green” approaches from these disciplines into greater conversation with one another.

Over the past decade, the environmental humanities has gained greater visibility through the development of programs and institutes (UC-Santa Barbara and UCLA, Princeton, University of Utah, Rachel Carson Center-Munich), academic journals (Resilience, Environmental Humanities), and compendiums (The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene). The impetus for the field’s development comes from a desire to link conversations in these various disciplines and also highlight the importance of humanistic perspectives on environmental topics, an area long dominated by the natural sciences, economics, and policy studies. Also, with the growing dire threat of climate change and diminishment of the world’s biodiversity, the need for insights from the humanities at this moment of profound ecological crisis has never been greater.

With this in mind, the symposium seeks to begin raising the profile of the environmental humanities at CNY corridor institutions. It will include a couple of dimensions. First, two panels involving professors and perhaps graduate students discussing how their disciplines contribute to the environmental humanities and how the environmental humanities speak to current environmental dilemmas, such as climate change. We would want to explore the possibilities for agreement and further inquiry among these fields but also the sources of tensions and disagreements among history, religious studies, cultural-historical geography, etc. related to environmental matters.

Second, we plan to invite a prominent speaker working in the environmental humanities as a guest speaker. The talk would be open to symposium participants as well as the university community. Who we invite will be determined after further discussion among the symposium organizers, but most likely someone from the Northeast or Upper Midwest to reduce travel costs. We are only proposing fees at this point to cover the honorarium. Funding for travel, lodging, and food will come from other departments, most likely the Department of Geography’s colloquium series “Geography, Environment, and Society.” Symposium co-organizer Robert Wilson is a geographer and co-organizer of the department’s colloquium series.

This working group will complement developments at other CNY Humanities Corridor institutions. Recently, Cornell University created an Environmental Humanities concentration as part of its Environment and Sustainability Sciences major. At Syracuse University, the working group will add to the new Environment, Sustainability, and Policy major. (Professor Wilson was part of the committee that created the major.) Currently, perspectives from the natural sciences and social sciences are well represented but ones from the humanities are not. An environmental humanities symposium and EH-related activities in future years will help demonstrate the salience of humanities approaches for environmental and sustainability matters.

Active since: 2019

Group Organizers

Robert Wilson

Associate Professor of Geography

Aaron Sachs

Professor of History

Sara Pritchard

Associate Professor, Science & Technology Studies