The Year in Review, 2014-15

We are delighted to report that “Oecologies” has successfully completed its second year of interdisciplinary, cross-period programming. We – Patricia Badir, Vin Nardizzi, Robert Rouse, and Tiffany Werth – offer here a roundup of the year’s activities and a preview of the exciting new initiatives that we’ll embark upon next academic year.

Under the banner of “The Histories of Sustainability,” we hosted eight speakers at Green College: they introduced us to the relationship between sustainability and the Anthropocene (Jeremy Davies); to the queerness of plant sex (Catriona Sandilands); to the localism of sustainable practice and knowledge (Kenneth Lertzman); to the fossil record in seventeenth-century culture (Paula Findlen); to the concepts of panarchy and resilience (Karen Bakker); to the meanings of “raw materials” in the Victorian era (Deanna Kreisel); to the sociology of gift economies (Thomas Kemple); and to contemporary thinking about zoophilia (Greg Garrard). We are grateful to the Green College community for facilitating this suite of diverse perspectives on what sustainability is and what it is that we think we should sustain.

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From 7-9 November 2014, members of the “Oecologies” collective also convened at Green College for the 42nd Annual UBC Medieval Workshop (in conjunction with SFU). Medieval and Renaissance Oecologies brought together researchers from around North America and Europe to interrogate premodern understandings of the natural world and ecological thinking. In an effort to define complex terms such as “environment,” “landscape,” and “ecology,” we asked: Where do these terms come from? What came before them? What do they mean here and now? What did conceptions of Nature and “œcology” look like in the medieval and Renaissance periods and how did different discourse communities define their meanings? Our keynote speakers for this conference were Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University) and Laurie Shannon (Northwestern University). Our conference also partnered with the 40th North American Byzantine Studies Conference, which convened in Vancouver that same weekend.

Graduate student and faculty members of “Oecologies” also participated in the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference (16-19 October 2014), the 3rd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group (16-18 October 2014), the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention (8-11 January 2015), the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) Annual Meeting (26-28 March 2015), and the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) Annual Meeting (2-5 April 2015).

Looking Ahead to 2015-16

In the upcoming year, “Oecologies” programming will change and will, we hope, remain exciting and diverse as ever. We will not be convening a speaker series at Green College. Instead, we have planned three major events for the upcoming year.

In July 2015, we will be partnering with Daniel Heath Justice, who spoke in our first series at Green College, and Rachel Poliquin, for a symposium called “AnimalFest: Celebrating Reaktion’s Animal Series.”

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A diverse collection of Animal authors will discuss their species-specific volumes, the burgeoning field of Animal Studies, and their experiences in writing cultural histories for this transformative book series. Events will include a one-day symposium at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on 18 July 2015 and a public reading/discussion on 19 July. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/AnimalFest2015.

From 1-3 October 2015, we will convene in Vancouver a multi-day symposium called “Oecologies: Engaging the World From Here.” Under the generous auspices of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada’s Connection Grant program and in partnership with UBC and SFU, we have invited eight speakers – Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Frances Dolan, Jonathan Gil Harris, Ursula Heise, David Matthews, Louise Noble, Sharon O’Dair, and Sandra Young – to reflect on how their specific locale in the so-called Anthropocene Era has come to inform how they conceptualize scholarly research on the literary cultures of medieval and Renaissance England.

These speakers will be joined by select local “Oecologies” researchers, and, in addition to sharing research findings, we will enjoy a guided eco-tour of Vancouver and will participate in a rehearsed reading of John Lyly’s play Gallathea, which will be run by “Oecologies” co-organizer Patricia Badir.

In Spring 2016, we will host an event at the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) Annual Meeting in New Orleans (23-26 March 2016). Vin Nardizzi will lead a seminar called “Shakespeare and the Histories of Sustainability.” Our confirmed invited participants include Patricia Badir, Hillary Eklund, Rebecca Totaro, and Tiffany Werth. Below is a draft of the seminar description:

What might Shakespeare and his contemporaries contribute to multi-disciplinary conversations about sustainability? Do English Renaissance texts and institutions model “sustainable practices”? Do they resist such practices, imagine them differently, or figure their failure? Papers are welcome on such topics as catastrophe, climate change, debt and gift economies, excess and festival, husbandry, resource depletion and extraction, resilience, risk management, scarcity, sufficiency, and yields.

Please consider joining us in the seminar as a participant or as an auditor!

“Oecologies” members will also be sponsoring and/or participating in events at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (14-17 May 2015), the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference (22-25 October 2015), the MLA (7-10 January 2016), and the “Canada + Shakespeare” Symposium in Ottawa (21-23 April 2016).

Thank you!

We are grateful for the generosity of Mark Vessey, Alan Gumboc, John Corry, and Simone Goguen at Green College. We must also thank the person who is single-handedly responsible for our communications network, Sarah Crover; special thanks also to Tessa Cernik, Daniel Helbert, Kelsey Moskal, Kristan Newell, Jade Standing, Nathan Szymanski, and Matt Warner. Finally, and most deeply, we thank you, our network of colleagues, for your continued interest in our programming.

Vin Nardizzi
Tiffany Jo Werth
Patricia Badir
Robert Rouse

Upcoming Colloquium

We’re delighted to announce the good news that our SSHRC Connection Grant has been awarded funding for “Oecologies: engaging the world, from here,” which is a two-day, international, and multi-institutional conference that we will host at the downtown Vancouver campus of Simon Fraser University (SFU) from 1-3 October 2015.

By inviting an international group of established scholars and local university graduate students and faculty members who specialize in literature before 1700, we aim to scrutinize what “engaging the world” (SFU’s brand) “from here” (UBC’s brand) entails historically and geographically. As such, the conference will provide the space to explore the tension between parts of the environmental movement summarized as its cultural or “human dimension”—its literature and stories—and ecological crisis. It draws inspiration from our keynote speaker, Professor Ursula Heise, Professor in the Department of English and at the Institute of the Environment & Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. In Sense of Place and Sense of Planet (2008), Heise traces the fraught relation between “ecolocalism” and the idea of the global in environmentalist advocacies (mainly North American and German) from the mid-twentieth century to the present moment. Our contributors will bear in mind Heise’s call for an “eco-cosmopolitanism,” which aims to articulate “ways of imagining the global that frame localism from a globalist environmental perspective,” even as they add further historical depth to the environmental history that Heise outlines.

This conference will focus on the theoretical dilemmas of place and identity that generally inform ecocriticism and the Humanities’ engagement with the environment. Through a transhistorical exploration, our participants question how the premodern continues to press upon the present. Rather than build on analysis from a single location, the multi-continental composition (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America) of the conference thus begins in a common literature but extends to an examination of how the context of different environments and policies shapes the reception of the premodern literary past.

Stay tuned for a full schedule and paper titles!

Mon April 13: Greg Garrard, “Being Zoo: Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals,” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the final talk of the semester in the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, at UBC:

Dr. Greg Garrard 

(Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, University of British Columbia, Okanagan)
“Being Zoo: Bestial Humans and Sexual Animals”
5-6:30pm, Mon April 13, Coach House, Green College, UBC

Greg GarrardSummary: Following a period of liberalization in the 1960s and 1970s, sex with animals is being gradually re-criminalized: Germany has recently banned “actions alien to the species,” while Sweden has recently proposed a law against “bestiality.” Reports of the debates construct zoophiles as sexually “predatory” (itself a zoomorphic term) and the animals involved as innocent “victims.” Because in all these countries cruelty to animals is already illegal, however, it can only be zoophilic desire as such that is abominable. Moreover, sexual interaction with animals is fundamental to the workings of the intensive meat industry, so the laws have had to frame the bans carefully, specifying, as best they can, erotic intention. The arguments in favour of criminalization equivocate intriguingly between the older, anthropocentric stigmatization of “bestiality” and newer rhetorics of animal welfare and rights. The two often mix poorly together. Meanwhile, queer ecocriticism and critical animal studies have been re-evaluating animal sexuality: Bruce Bagemihl’s landmark Biological Exuberance is a non-human Pride parade of sexual configurations, while Joan Roughgarden overtly analogizes the diversity of human and animal eroticism in Evolution’s Rainbow. “Being Zoo” will engineer a collision between the new laws against zoophilia and the celebration of queer eroticism among animals, taking in such literary and cinematic representations of zoophilia as Robinson Devor’s Zoo, Marian Engel’s Bear, and Peter Shaffer’s Equus.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

“Oecologies: Histories of Sustainability” is a Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me (nardizzi@mail.ubc.ca) or our assistant, Sarah Crover (sarah.crover@alumni.ubc.ca).

 

Wed March 25: Thomas Kemple, “Mauss’s Roundtable: Continuity and Change in the Economy of the Eco-gift,” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the fourth talk of the semester in the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, at UBC:

Dr. Thomas Kemple 
(Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia)
“Mauss’s Roundtable: Continuity and Change in the Economy of the Eco-gift”
5-6:30pm, Wed March 25, Coach House, Green College, UBC


ThomasKempleOESummary:
 This talk considers the arguments of some classical sociologists from the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century concerning the relationship between subsistence economies of reproduction and sacrificial economies of symbolic exchange. Marcel Mauss’s celebrated figure of “the roundtable of gift-exchange” presents us with a model of reciprocity and rivalry, solidarity and strife that can be framed by Georg Simmel’s general reflections on the self-preservation of social groups and Thorstein Veblen’s famous thesis concerning the conspicuous consumption of the leisure classes. With reference to a few ordinary and imaginary examples, such as the family meal and the festive sacrifice, I consider how these early accounts of the extra-or non-economic foundations of social life anticipate and even exceed recent cultural theories of what I am calling the “eco-gift”: the paradox of “a given space to inhabit” or of “a given thing to have” that connects by separating, binds while freeing, and takes in receiving. By recovering this classic theme from the history of the science of social economics, I argue for a kind of “object-oriented sociology” that considers how bonds of association are materialized and describes how non-human things establish and make visible relations between people.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

“Oecologies: Histories of Sustainability” is a Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me (nardizzi@mail.ubc.ca) or our assistant, Sarah Crover (sarah.crover@alumni.ubc.ca).

 

Wed Feb 25: Deanna Kreisel, “Ruskin’s Raw Materials: Toward a History of ‘Sustainability,’” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the third talk of the semester in the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, at UBC:

Dr. Deanna Kreisel
(Department of English, University of British Columbia)
“Ruskin’s Raw Materials: Toward a History of ‘Sustainability’”
5-6:30pm, Wed Feb 25, the Piano Lounge at Graham House, Green College, UBC

KreiselPhotoSummary: Much of the content of contemporary sustainability discourse in the West can be traced back to the social reform movements of the Victorian period. As David M. Craig notes, for political economist and art critic John Ruskin, “the exercise of moral restraint as a consumer starts in a recognition of specific physical limits…. [T]his recognition of physical limits and a commitment to moral restraint are inextricably bound.” Patrick Brantlinger extends this line of thinking even further when he insists that for Ruskin, “the apparently private choices of individual consumers, gendered female, are matters of public, national urgency.” This paper will begin to sketch a history of the concept of sustainability in the nineteenth century by examining how Ruskin’s challenge to Victorian models of private domesticity also includes an alternative conceptualization of the relationship between interior and exterior, both bodily and architectural. In his 1858 lecture “The Work of Iron, In Nature, Art, and Policy,” for example, Ruskin delivers a polemical analysis of “raw materials” as an important part of a reconfigured relationship between natural and human activity—a relationship that is characterized by limits and bounded by quite literal frames and rigid structures for which iron becomes the emblem. This paper will trace this line of thinking throughout some of Ruskin’s voluminous body of work, and consider its roots in the Physiocrats’ model of self-contained economic organization and its future in theories of steady state zero growth economies.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

“Oecologies: Histories of Sustainability” is a Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me (nardizzi@mail.ubc.ca) or our assistant, Sarah Crover (sarah.crover@alumni.ubc.ca).

Wed Jan 28: Karen Bakker, “The Politics of Panarchy,” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the second talk of the semester in the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, at UBC:

Dr. Karen Bakker 
(Department of Geography, University of British Columbia)
“The Politics of Panarchy”
5-6:30pm, Wed Jan 28, Coach House, Green College, UBC

KarenOE.Summary: Resilience has emerged as one of the key concepts in contemporary sustainability debates. The rapidly growing appeal of the concept of resilience across a broad range of disciplines has overshadowed the concept of “panarchy,” a cognate framework developed by ecologist Buzz Holling (then at UBC) and collaborators from the 1970s onwards. Holling seeks to provide an alternative explanatory framework for the source, pathways, and roles of change and adaptation in socionatural systems. Notably, in collaborating with a broad range of natural and social (notably political) scientists, Holling emphasizes the mutual constitutiveness of social and environmental change, an understanding of which (he argues) demands a radical reformation of governance. After presenting a genealogy of the concept of panarchy, I address the (sometimes strange) synergies between panarchy, panarchism, and post-humanism, including concepts such as non-dualism, agency, and relationality. Holling’s approach to panarchy is often depicted as a radical departure from other, notably nineteenth-century notions of “panarchism” (largely framed as expressions of anarchist or libertarian political governance). Indeed, “panarchy” is often depicted (and criticized) as an apolitical–perhaps even post-political–concept. Yet the concept of panarchy is ripe with potential political possibilities (both progressive and regressive). I conclude with a discussion of the potential relevance of a renovated and expanded concept of panarchy for our engagement with environmental politics.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

“Oecologies: Histories of Sustainability” is a Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me (nardizzi@mail.ubc.ca) or our assistant, Sarah Crover (sarah.crover@alumni.ubc.ca).

 

Thurs Jan 15: Paula Findlen, “What is a Fossil? The Rediscovery of Nature in Seventeenth-Century Sicily,” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the first talk of the new semester in the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College:

Dr. Paula Findlen
(Department of History, Stanford University)
“What is a Fossil?  The Rediscovery of Nature in Seventeenth-Century Sicily”
5-6:30pm, Thurs Jan 15, Coach House, Green College, UBC
Wine and cheese reception to follow

Summary: In 1670 the Messina painter, antiquarian, and naturalist Agostino Scilla published an important interpretation of the fossils of Sicily, Malta, and Calabria. This talk explores Scilla’s Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense as a case study in how nature became an object of special inquiry in seventeenth-century Sicily. The concerns of Sicilian and more generally southern Italian naturalists were not about nature in general but about the particular and local circumstances of nature in the world they inhabited. The history of Sicily and southern Italy was fundamentally a history of a dynamic, changing nature that periodically threatened to swallow up the human populations that inhabited this volcanic region of the world. This project explores why and how the experience of living on an ancient Mediterranean island shaped the outlook of its inhabitants and ultimately inspired some of them to become active interpreters of nature in the age of the Scientific Revolution. Reconstructing this Sicilian moment in the history of science is also an opportunity to reflect on how local nature shapes global interpretation of the natural world.

FindlenSpeaker Information: Paula Findlen is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History, Department Chair, and currently Director of the Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is the author of many publications on the relations between science, society, and culture in the early modern era, with a particular interest in natural history and collecting. Her publications include Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (1994); Merchants and Marvels (2002, coedited with Pamela Smith); Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (2004) and most recently Early Modern Things: Objects and Their Histories, 1500-1800 (2013). She is completing a study of Agostino Scilla and his fossils.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

“Oecologies: Histories of Sustainability” is a Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me (nardizzi@mail.ubc.ca) or our assistant, Sarah Crover (sarah.crover@alumni.ubc.ca).