New EH Courses Created by Center Grants
FR 297 Indigenous Resistances to Petrocapitalism:
“We Are Not Drowning, We Are Fighting!”
Fall 2019, Anaïs Maurer
Pacific writers and artists are at the forefront of the movement to oppose petrocapitalism and to fight American carbon imperialism. In this Humanities Lab, students will analyze Pacific cultural production, interview climate activists from Oceania, and read critical articles on the opposition to nuclear energy and resource exhaustion. Students will also help to promote the message of Pacific climate activists by transforming Pacific works into digital artifacts catering to a mainland audience. Course and readings all in English.
EA242 Development and Environmental Issues in Contemporary China
Fall 2019, Hong Zhang
As the most populous country in the world with more than 1.3 billion people, and undergoing rapid industrialization/urbanization as it has been integrated into the global economy over the past four decades, China faces a diverse range of developmental and environmental challenges. This course adopts a multidisciplinary approach to study the environmental governance and challenges in China. Students gain visual, ethical, cultural and social perspectives on the complex issues concerning developmental rights and environmental protection, human costs of rapid urbanization, dislocation, environmental justice/equity, environmental activism, and environmental policy-making and implementation in China. This course also contains an Environmental Humanities Lab component in that students will download the mobile “Blue Map” apps to track and analyze pollution data in China throughout the semester. This course also connects with the Energy/Exhaustion theme in that it examines transnational green movements and the rise of innovative environmental activism that taps technology and mobilizes citizens to monitor dirty energy and industrial pollution in China.
SP237s Conquest & Resistance in the Americas
Spring 2020, Luis Millones Figueroa
The European expansion during the Early Modern period sought to transform the Americas by reproducing the material, spiritual, and biological landscapes of the Old World. Amerindian peoples whose lives and cultures were jeopardized confronted the Europeans by deploying an array of resistance strategies. Students will engage with texts and materials from different areas and time periods to uncover and analyze the many ways in which energy and exhaustion came into play during conquest and resistance efforts across the Americas. This Environmental Humanities class explores the Energy/Exhaustion theme.
Other Courses in the Environmental Humanities
AM228 Nature and the Built Environment
Built environments order human experience and action, shaping people’s sense of themselves and the world. We examine how the built environment has influenced and expressed Americans’ relationships with nature. We track how ideas about the natural environment emerge in different historical and geographical settings and consider the material and environmental consequences of these beliefs. Topics include park design, suburban development, environmental justice campaigns, and green building. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence.
AM235 Made in Maine
We examine how Mainers make meaning through the lens of craft beer cultures, exploring beer as a food, a commodity, an expression of cultural history and artisanal production, a builder of community, an expression of status, and a shaper of the built environment. This is a humanities lab course, combining reading, writing, and discussion with fieldwork, archival research, and digital storytelling.
AY256 Land, Food, Culture, and Power
Mary Beth Mills
An examination of cultural and political aspects of land and other resource use in contexts of culture contact and/or social change, drawing from a variety of ethnographic examples in different parts of the world. A focus on varied subsistence and resource management systems explores how local forms of livelihood have been incorporated into and challenged by national and global economic relations and structures through processes of colonization and the growth of transnational capitalism. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
EN120M Language, Thought, and Writing: Environmental Imagination
Considers the environment and understanding the ways in which it is represented, imagined, constructed, and manipulated by humans. We will start with a historical foundation in literature, and add examples from the visual arts, music, philosophy, religion, and the built environment, asking the question, what do our imaginative products reveal to us about our relationship to the non-human? Students will engage with the Maine environment on several occasions, including two field trips to the Maine mountains and seacoast.
EN283 Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience
What can literature teach us about nature and environmental justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the “two cultures” debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films. Fulfills English C and D requirements.
ES126 Environmental Activism
An introduction to the history, theory, and practice of environmental activism, incorporating both global and local perspectives. We focus on individual activists, grassroots groups, indigenous people, and large environmental organizations, analyze their motivations, strategies, and experiences, and determine how their actions have sparked effective social, political, and environmental change. We explore the social phenomena that underlay environmental activism, taking an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses history, environmental justice, social movement theory, political theory, public policy, and communications. We make significant use of primary source narratives by activists and communities on the front-lines of environmental struggles. We will place particular emphasis on climate and energy activism. Energy/Exhaustion humanities theme course. Prerequisite: First-year standing.
PL126 Philosophy and the Environment
An introduction to philosophy through prominent questions and themes in environmental philosophy. Topics include the historical context and causes of environmental crisis, anthropocentrism, animal rights, intrinsic value, biocentrism, ecocentrism, and radical social theories, incorporating core philosophical issues in ethics, philosophical anthropology, and nature philosophy. These provide resources for clear and creative reasoning on the philosophical aspects of creating sustainable communities, for reflection on value priorities, and for exploration of relationships between academic work and social responsibility.
PL328 Radical Ecologies
Radical ecologies interrogate our everyday, scientific, and metaphysical conceptions of nature, they emphasize that environmental problems in human-to-nature relations originate in human-to-human relations (e.g., gender, class, and race relations), and they call for comprehensive social and cultural changes through their critiques of existing social forms. They critically explore the historical, cultural, ethical, political, economic, and technological aspects of the place of the human in nature. Readings from anarchist social ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, and ecosocialism. Prerequisite: One philosophy course.
ST112 Science, Technology, and Society
Critical perspectives on the social aspects of science and technology in our lives, in the world around us, and throughout history. Issues include gender, communications, war, and the environment.
Dale Kocevski, Christopher Walker
How does energy and its limits shape our lives? To address this question, this course will consider how energy connects artistic and technological innovations, local communities and oppressive structures of power, political activism and affective fatigue, histories of environmental change and societal collapse, and the origin of life and entropic fate of the universe. Students will attend public lectures by visiting scholars and Colby faculty. These lectures will examine the political stakes of negotiating our relation to energy and exhaustion from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Students will engage in focused discussion and short reflection papers. Nongraded. Energy/Exhaustion humanities theme course.jmn
ST223 Asian Science and Society
Introduces important issues concerning Asian science, medicine, and technology through reviewing and comparing their interactions with societies in different times and places. It highlights how religious, social, political and cultural aspects of Asian societies have shaped the trajectory of scientific and medical developments in different times and their encounters with the Western world. Major content includes traditional Chinese medicine and astronomy, South Asian botany and mathematics, contemporary variations of traditional science, and modern science and technology in China, Japan, Singapore, and other East and Southeast Asian countries.
EN237 Postcolonial Pastoral: Ecology, Travel, and Writing
A critical examination of the pastoral as a literary genre from a global postcolonial perspective. Conducted in Kalimpong, India, enables students to work with Shiva’s outreach center on biodiversity, ecology, and wilderness. Students combine their interest in civic engagement with a critical study of traditions relating to land, food, ecology, sustainability, and community, emerging in the global south. Students reflect on and write about their experiences of land and community from the perspective of informed observers, participants, and travelers. Fulfills English D requirement. Cost is $4,000. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.
ES151 Landscapes and Meaning: An Exploration of Environmental Writing
An exploration of the works of selected 20th-century environmental writers and how their life experiences contribute to a sense of connection with and action on behalf of the Earth. Through readings, film, writing assignments, group discussion, and journaling, students will develop critical thinking and communication skills while reflecting on their own personal relationship with nature.
ED398A Education and Sustainable Development
During the past quarter century, the concepts of sustainability, development, and role of education have been contested by scholars. This course will introduce students to these central debates, develop students’ ability to critically reflect upon sustainable development in an educational context, and prepare them to create, design, evaluate, and share educational materials on sustainability development goals. The course aims to first prepare students to be “bilingual,” able to utilize terms, theories, and concepts from sustainability, development, and education fields. The course also focuses on some of the most “global” of all sustainable development challenges: climate change, energy systems, population growth, and food systems and their relationships with schooling.
EN363 The Enlightenment and the Anthropocene
This seminar is guided by the question: Is the Anthropocene a product of the Enlightenment? We will explore questions of what exactly “the Enlightenment” and “the Anthropocene” are, and when and where slippages in our usage or understanding of these concepts cause confusion and error that can ripple across disciplines. Fulfills English C and E requirements.
EN398B Energy and Utopia
From the appearance of slavery in Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) to the centrality of the alien energy source “vibranium” in Nnedi Okorafor’s Afro-futurist The Black Panther (2018), utopian narratives have been underwritten by the myth of endless, free energy, and the elision of exhausted, disenfranchised labor. Considering this historical problem, we will ask what type of political work is performed by the utopian genre today? To do so, this humanities lab will investigate literary, cinematic, and theoretical examinations of our current climate, energy, and political crises. Fulfills English C and D requirements. Energy/Exhaustion humanities lab.
ES118 Environment and Society
Becknell, Moore, Nyhus, Walker
An interdisciplinary study of human relationships with and impacts on the environment. Examination of important local, national, and global environmental issues by exploring causes and methods for investigating these pressing problems, as well as possible solutions, from scientific and public-policy perspectives. Students explore important literature and ideas in the field to complement the lectures; conduct an original, semester-long, group research project; and complete several writing assignments.
GM298 Banality of Ecocide (in English)
When the German philosopher Hannah Arendt’s published her book reflecting on the trial of the famous Nazi Adolf Eichmann, it was given the subtitle “A Report on the Banality of Evil.” At that trial, Eichmann did not seem to fit the expected mold of a murderous monster; he seemed to be little more than a clever bureaucrat, but what made him “evil” was his failure “to think, namely to think from the standpoint of somebody else.” In this course, we will use such attempts to reckon with the genocide of the Holocaust in postwar German thought, literature and art to consider the banal evil that underlies our own failure, as human beings, to confront the extinction and ecocide happening around us. Energy/Exhaustion humanities theme course.
HI248 Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
Examines the environmental history of nuclear power, peaceful and military. Using a variety of materials from a variety of disciplines and genres of human expression, students will consider the impact of military and civilian nuclear technologies on the environment, including human, machine (nuclear technology), and nature interactions. In a strongly interactive approach, using such primary sources as films, maps, archival documents, political cartoons, letters to the editor, beauty pageants (“Miss Atom!”), and photographs, they will engage questions of energy, nature, and landscape. Environmental humanities course.
HI348 U.S. Environmental History
Examines the complex interplay between nature and culture throughout American history, illuminating humanity’s evolving relationship with the natural world and the ways the environment has shaped human history. Following a survey of Native peoples and the changes brought about by European colonization, we will tackle themes associated with the Western frontier, industrial expansion, conservation, and the emergence of ecological thinking. Lastly, we will explore the historical roots of large-scale social and political movements including progressive era conservation, 20th-century environmentalism, and more recently, sustainability. Previously offered as History 397 (Fall 2018).
PL216 Philosophy of Nature
Ancient philosophers contemplated the natural world, modern philosophers and scientists sought to instrumentalize it, and recent thinkers are gaining an appreciation of nature’s often unruly complexity. As they consider varied historical and current accounts of nature, students will also engage with the questions how, by whom, and under what conditions knowledge of nature is produced, providing opportunities to question their own fundamental beliefs about nature. Readings range from Aristotle to current philosophy, history, and social studies of the sciences.
RE232 American Spirituality and the Environment
Examines historical and contemporary connections between spirituality and environmentalism in American culture. From early Quakers to mid-19th-century Romantics to contemporary Buddhists, we explore how individuals and groups in the United States have conceived of the relationship between environmentally responsible living, spiritual discipline, and social witness. While the course will span geographic regions, special attention is paid to movements and figures centered in Maine. Previously listed as RE298B (Spring 2019).