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.”


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

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!

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 or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please do not hesitate to contact me ( or our assistant, Sarah Crover (

The Year in Review (2013-2014)

OecologiesThe “Oecologies” research cluster has enjoyed an exciting first year! At Green College, we hosted six speakers who introduced us to object-oriented philosophies and medieval culture (Allan Mitchell); to the intersection of environmental justice and Indigenous epistemologies in the figure of the more-than-human “relative” (Daniel Heath Justice); to two divergent and yet related models of “nature” in early modern European philosophy (Lisa Shapiro); to the vexed matter of a free sea (Renisa Mawani); to the history of “oeconomy” (Margaret Schabas); and to the inability to comprehend “wilderness” in sixteenth-century France (Louisa Mackenzie). These speakers have focused our collective attention on the long, intertwined, and multidisciplinary histories of ecology, economy, environment, and social justice. Individually and collectively, our speakers have demonstrated intellectual gameness and generosity. They have helped us to think through why we do the scholarly work that we do from here, on the North American Pacific Coast.

In 2014, members of the “Oecologies” research cluster also convened elsewhere, specifically the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) Annual Meeting in New York City, to discuss some of the cluster’s keywords – “composting,” “forest,” “environs,” “scale,” “animal,” and “ecology.” Our roundtable speakers were Frances Dolan (University of California, Davis), Carla Freccero (University of California, Santa Cruz), Jeffrey Todd Knight (University of Washington), Peter Mancall (University of Southern California, Dornsife), Vin Nardizzi (UBC), and Tiffany Jo Werth (Simon Fraser University); Patricia Badir (UBC) was the chair of our session. The roundtable was a resounding success: it was well attended, and its audience members asked the panelists engaged questions. We look forward to holding similar intellectual gatherings at conferences and colloquia next year.

Looking Ahead to 2014-15

In the upcoming year, “Oecologies” hopes to build upon its successes at Green College and at other scholarly venues. Our GC speaker series theme for 2014-15 is “The Histories of Sustainability,” and we have invited a roster of excellent speakers from a range of disciplines and faculties to discuss with us this vital environmental keyword. Stay tuned for updates about the final schedule of speakers.

UBC’s Medieval Studies Program will also be hosting the 42nd Medieval Workshop (7-9 November 2014) at Green College. The theme for this gathering is “Medieval and Renaissance Oecologies,” and its confirmed plenary speakers are Laurie Shannon (Northwestern University) and Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University). We have accepted wonderful proposals for this workshop and will circulate very soon a draft schedule of events.

“Oecologies” members will also be sponsoring and/or participating in events at the 3rd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group (16-18 October 2014), the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference (22-25 October 2014), the RSA (26-28 March 2015), the Shakespeare Association of America (2-4 April 2015), and the 50th International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo (14-17 May 2015).

Thank you!

In addition to ours speakers, we are grateful for the support and 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 online presence and communications network, Carmel Ohman, without whom our pursuits would have gone unrealized. Finally, and most deeply, we thank you, our audience of students, faculty members, and residents of Green College, for attending these talks with dedication and for engaging our series and its speakers with a curiosity about multidisciplinary and transhistorical matters and methods.

Vin Nardizzi
Tiffany Jo Werth
Patricia Badir
Robert Rouse

May 22: Vancouver the Greenest City? A Social Justice Perspective

Ecologies of Social Difference Social Justice @ UBC
Evening panel: Vancouver the Greenest City? A Social Justice Perspective

Vancouver is moving rapidly towards becoming the ‘Greenest City’, but what are the implications and opportunities to integrate social justice in these long-term visions of sustainability? What examples are there to date of missed opportunities or key successes towards this end? More broadly, what tools are available to us to better connect social justice and environmental sustainability aims?

This panel is organized by the Ecologies of Social Difference Social Justice @ UBC Thematic Network. Our network is interested in promoting insights, research, and networking at the intersection of nature/environment, social justice and difference/inequality.

Our panelists include:

Jordan Bober is a New Economist who devotes himself to the evolution of a regenerative, socially just economy by convening events, speaking and teaching, and even by running a Vancouver-based community currency called Seedstock.

Melanie Conn is a long-time activist with women, co-operatives and community economic development. She is also a founding director of the Women’s Economic Council.

Stephanie Lim is the coordinator of the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute, a founding member of the Neighbourhood Food Network Working Group.

Robert Vanwynsberghe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia. His research expertise is in sustainability and the related areas of social movements and capacity building.

Time: May 22, 2014, 6-9pm
Venue: C680 – HSBC Hall, UBC Robson square
Address: 800 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 3B7
Panel discussion, Q&A, and a reception following the event
Snack and drinks are provided
Please RSVP with by May 15th
Organizers: Ecologies of Social Difference Social Justice Network,
Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice, University of British Columbia

Read an interview with Vin Nardizzi about his book on Shakespeare and England’s trees!

Wooden Os - Vin NardizziRead an interview with Vin Nardizzi about his book Wooden Os: Shakespeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees (2013)! In it, Dr. Nardizzi also discusses his new research project, Vaster Than Empires: The Lives of Early Modern Vegetables, which constitutes his contribution to the Oecologies research cluster.