2013-14 Theme Seminar - “Environmental Turn and the Human Sciences”

Readings and Seminar Schedule
(open only to participants)

Organizers - Didier Fassin and Joan Scott

The widespread perception that humanity faces a series of related environmental challenges–climate change, growing human population, food security, energy crisis, shortage of fresh water, and so on–has spurred many disciplines to attempt to make the environment a central concern of their foundational paradigms. Economists, sociologists, historians, policy scientists and others have begun to address the issue of sustainability and the question of “the commons” in human affairs. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have begun to study communities facing environmental disruption while new and inter-disciplinary areas of investigation have emerged under the rubric of “environmental humanities.” Historians have begun to write long-term histories of energy consumption and to connect environmental histories to histories of capitalism, empires, and globalization. Crutzen's idea of the Anthropocene –that human beings now act as a geophysical force changing the climate of the planet as a whole, ushering in a new geological period that follows the Holocene–has given rise to a new philosophical anthropology that attempts to re-situate the human in the natural order of things. In short, the human story is changing. During this year, we hope to develop a shared conversation on the strategies that different disciplines are adopting to deal with the challenge of environmental crises. In particular, we would like to think through the following issues and see how the human condition is being re-imagined today in humanistic studies: (a) historical and political implications of the idea of the Anthropocene, (b) the problem of scale in the study of human societies, past, present, and future, (c) capitalism and sustainability, (d) the unsustainable distinction between natural and human histories, (e) rights, agency, justice, and politics in an age of climate change, (f) human responsibility towards life, and (g) the challenge of climate change for postcolonial studies (broadly conceived).

Participating SSS Scholars

Other Participating Scholars

Nikhil Anand, University of Minnesota Robert Brulle, Drexel University
Jeffrey Flynn, Fordham University Christopher Hamlin, University of Notre Dame
David I. Grazian, University of Pennsylvania Adriana Petryna, University of Pennsylvania
Mark J. Greif, The New School Anne Rademacher, New York University
Wendy Griswold, Northwestern University
Joseph D. Hankins, University of California, San Diego
Dale Jamieson, New York University
Joseph P. Masco, The University of Chicago
Ann McGrath, Australian National University
Manuela Picq, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Sverker Sörlin, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College
Richard York, The University of Oregon