With the dramatic focus on environmental and ecological issues since the 1970s, it could be argued that we now live in an "ecological society." Recycling is the norm; global warming and ozone depletion have become part of our global consciousness; and major polluters, from the US Army to Dow Chemical, feel obliged to spend millions of dollars presenting themselves as ecology-friendly. This normalization of ecology comes at a price. Ecological practices and policies have been widely reframed within the increasingly pervasive framework of private market assumptions. Just as the corporate sector has, by some accounts, already engineered a leveraged buyout of environmentalism, an anti-environmental backlash has also emerged.
How can a vibrant ecological vision be reinvented? The normalization of ecology depends on a broad reaffirmation of some traditional western assumptions about nature vis-a-vis culture, but it is also forging new ones: a re-emergent biological and geographical determinism is helping to resculpt the social realities of race and gender; and a defensive science establishment reasserts the power of objectivity as a rigid boundary between culture and nature. But is green cultural criticism really the answer? What are the limits to the social constructionist argument about nature? How is ecology used in pursuit of U.S. interests? And how do many radical environmental movements reaffirm as much as challenge some of the deepest assumptions of the nature/culture divide? What would an environmental movement look like that is capable of both leading the public redefinition of "ecologies" and yet remaining independent?
This year's seminar seeks to explore appropriate redefinitions of "ecology" by focusing on the politics, theoretical implications and intellectual history of the nature/culture divide. We encourage the investigation of a range of topics connected to this overarching theme: urban ecologies, nature as discourse, environmental racism, the limits of scientific objectivity, nature writing, indigenous peoples' ecologies, ecofeminism, and anti-environmental backlash.
Neil Smith, Department of Geography
Sheila R. Foster (Law)
Jonathan Kramnick (English)
Donald Drueckeberg (Urban Planning and Policy Development)
Ulrike Linke (Anthropology)
Jorge Marcone (Spanish and Portuguese)
Brian Rourke (English)
Richard Schroeder (Geography)
Christopher Clare Sellers (History)
Deborah J. Allen (English)
Maria Fernandez Espinosa (Geography)
John Antranig Kasbarian (Geography)
Lisa Lynch (English)
Colleen O’Neill (History)
Ruth Elizabeth Simpson (Sociology)
Giovanna Di Chiro (Environmental Studies and Women’s Studies, UC Santa Cruz)
Stefan Helmreich (Science and Technology Studies, Cornell)
Jesse Craig Ribot (Agrarian Studies, Yale)
Peter John Taylor, (Science and Technology Studies, Cornell)