New EH Courses Created by Center Grants
AY229: Reading Ethnographies of Climate Change
Spring 2021, Catherine Besteman
The ethnographic genre is unique to anthropology. Through focused reading and discussion of ethnographies on the theme of climate change, students will develop analytic and critical reading skills in this genre. The texts approach climate change from a wide variety of anthropological perspectives, from the impact of fossil fuel extraction on host communities to disaster relief efforts to community-based initiatives to theoretical assessments of the relationship between racism and environmental destruction. We will focus on the form and genre of the assigned ethnographies, engage in close textual analysis, and read comparatively. Class will be run as an open discussion seminar. As an Environmental Humanities lab course, the course will also include a consideration of art about climate change in relation to our assigned ethnographies. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
EN380: Advanced Creative Nonfiction: Coming of Age in the Anthropocene
Spring 2021, Michael Burke
This Environmental Humanities Lab explores the unique circumstances of college-age students in 2021, that cohort who have grown up in the age of the Anthropocene. Students will consider the consequences of such a coming-of-age, not only in terms of climate change but also the relationship between climate change and the Novel Coronavirus of 2020, by using that as their source material as they practice the art and craft of Creative Nonfiction. Students will consider the use of memoir, literary journalism, and cultural critique, in addition to the canonical personal essay. Central to the course is the self-designed project that each student will create, in consultation with the professor, which will define an individual ambition and goal for the semester, in response to the Coming of Age theme of the course. The semester begins with models, exercises, and discussion; students then produce drafts of creative pieces for workshop discussion, building towards a portfolio of polished nonfiction by the end of the semester.
EN493: 17th-century Literature and the Natural World
Spring 2021, Elizabeth Sagaser
This Environmental Humanities lab engages in the Humanities theme, Boundaries and Margins. Through hands-on reading and research, we will explore ways English literature written during the scientific revolution–from Shakespeare’s King Lear to poems and prose by 17th-c. women to Milton’s Paradise Lost– imagines the natural world and the human within it, challenging and unsettling long-sustained assumptions, even while sometimes paradoxically propagating them. In particular, we will examine how this literature experiments with conventional boundaries between humans and non-human animals, and with assumed boundaries between the physical world and proposed transcendent or metaphysical realms. Our work will illuminate how attitudes toward the environment develop through time and cultures, equipping you to more insightfully enter environmental conversations now. And it will illuminate for you how literature can foster cross-century collaborative reflection and boundary-breaking thought.
Other Courses in the Environmental Humanities
AM245: Land, Sovereignty, and Art
This course examines how Indigenous artists and activists respond visually to issues related to land, power, and social justice. We look at a broad range of media used by Indigenous peoples, including documentary filmmaking, printmaking, photography, and performance. While we focus on case studies in North America, the issues explored are relevant across the globe. We discuss Indigenous epistemologies related to land and mapping, and the ways in which these knowledge systems are mobilized in resistance to settler colonialism. Students leave equipped with theories and methods used to challenge the legacies of colonial research and representation. They complete several creative assignments and write a final essay. Counts as an elective toward the ES major and minor. Previously offered as American Studies 298B (Spring 2020). Art by Dignidad Rebelde.
AY256: Land, Food, Culture, Power
Mary Beth Mills
An examination of cultural and political aspects of land and other resource use, using the lens of political ecology and, a variety of ethnographic examples in different parts of the world. Case studies focus on ongoing conflicts over contested resources and related efforts to challenge experiences of environmental and food injustices. Students will apply conceptual tools from political ecology and environmental anthropology to develop a research project on a relevant topic of their choosing. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112.
AY365: Space, Place, and Belonging
How does a place become a home? Who can claim belonging in a community? How does the built environment shape collective experience of space? Space, Place and Belonging explores these and other questions in a range of contexts from Maine to Argentina. Readings include work from anthropologists, geographers, sociologists and journalists, and our weekly seminar includes a workshop exploring each week’s themes, through presentations from guest speakers, walking tours, work in the Colby Museum of Art and Colby Special Collections, and personal ethnographic reflections. The first section of the course examines how ideas about nature and the natural world shape human-nature interactions, from summer camps and ecotourism to polluted rivers and toxic air. We analyze mobility, race and nation, thinking through the imperial history of airline travel in the Caribbean and the contemporary experiences of deportation in Mexican-American communities. We consider how the past inhabits specific places, examining the debates over monuments and memorials in the US and Latin America, the role of ruins in political imaginaries, and geographies of race in Washington, DC. Throughout the course, we trace the ways in which material infrastructures and human communities are created, sustained, and transformed. For their final project, students are invited to choose to present their original research and analysis as a 15-page analytic paper; a podcast/audio documentary; a short film; an informational website/new Wikipedia page; a zine; a curriculum; a curated archive/digital special collections exhibit. Students interested in receiving Latin American Studies credit must complete their final project on a topic within Latin America. Prerequisites: AY112 or permission of instructor.
EN/ES/ST 283: 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.
PL243: Environmental Ethics
Aims to familiarize students with the many philosophical approaches that have been developed over the past few decades in response to the environmental crisis. It covers not only classical issues such as anthropocentrism and the intrinsic value of nature, but also supplies the conceptual tools needed to tackle the complex ethical, political, cultural, scientific, and practical dimensions of human relations to more-than-human nature. Special attention will be devoted to the topics of nonhuman animals, food, energy, and climate change.
SP 135: Introduction to Critical Analysis – Eco-Fiction & Eco-Thought
Introduction to critical analysis through a variety of eco-fiction and eco-thought provoking readings from Latin American, Spanish, and/or U.S. Latinx authors. We will explore human accountability to the environment and the presence of the nonhuman environment in fiction. Students will learn how to examine cultural products such as literature, film, performance, and visual culture through close reading, thematic analysis, and strategies of interpretation. Students develop skills in writing critical essays and learn the basics of scholarly research.
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.
Jan Plan 2021
ES1XXA: Religion, Spirituality, and Ecology in the Anthropocene
Religious and spiritual traditions are presumed to express the highest values of a culture and a people. If so, what role does religion have in the way people value and relate to the environment in the current era, during which human activity has been the dominant and often damaging influence on climate and ecology? This course explores the tenets of major Eastern and Western religions, and earth-centered traditions and considers how each promotes or impedes our response to the Anthropocene.
AY221: Pets, Beasts, and Wildlife
This course explores human-animal relations in cross-cultural and historical perspective. We will consider the social, symbolic and economic uses of animals in a variety of contexts–from cockfighting in Bali to the corporate culture of Sea World. We want to understand the centrality of animals to human existence but also contest the Enlightenment era narrative of an essential human-animal dichotomy. To understand the ethical implications of this dichotomy, we delve into the histories and philosophies of human-animal difference and study contemporary political issues such as animal rights and eating local. We will also consider intersections of the human and the animal: such as the dreams of Amazonian dogs and the consumption of human cheese. The course concludes with a final consideration of both human animality and animal subjectivity to arrive at a deeper understanding of both human and non-human animals.
AY464: Anthropology of Food
Mary Beth Mills
Food is essential to human life. Yet the significance of food for human being extends far beyond calories and nutrition. What counts as food is deeply shaped by cultural meanings and associations. Food can signify distinctive cultural identities; it can mark proud or shameful histories and global connections; it can point to (or obscure) deeply embedded structures of power and relations of inequality and privilege, both within and across diverse societies. Food offers rich fields for anthropological theorizing and fruitful avenues for extending critical research skills. Course work culminates in an independent, original research project and oral presentation. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112, and 313 or 333 (either may be taken concurrently), and junior or higher standing.
EA242: Development and Environmental Issues in Contemporary China
This course will use textbooks and reading materials that provide the social science approach in studying environmental issues in China. Although China is the second largest economy in the world, it is still a developing country on the per capita basis. This course will explore the issues of developmental rights vs. environmental protection, and environmental justice and the human and health costs of ecological degradation and industrial pollution at the global level.
EA1XX: Nature in Chinese and Japanese Literature
This course combines readings of traditional literature with an exploration of the perceived relationship between nature and man, as reflected in the literary, visual, and material culture of China, Japan, and Korea. Students will improve writing skills through weekly writing reflections, two short essays, and one research paper. Other goals include, hone analytical skills through close reading of East Asian texts; reflect critically on the relationship between the natural world and man in East Asian culture, and how these views might enrich our own; and acquire an understanding of how literature and art can both shape and reflect our world view.
EN/ES/ST 337: Climate Fiction
This course investigates contemporary literature, film, and media in the developing genre known as “climate fiction.” We will situate these texts within the environmental humanities, an interdisciplinary field that combines scientific-cultural discourses about the environment with humanistic concerns for justice. We will ask how cli-fi narrates disaster on a global scale, but also strives to imagine more just futures that combine environmentalism and social equality. These texts will be paired with philosophical and eco-critical writings that will aid our development of the humanistic methodologies needed to analyze this new genre. Fulfills English C requirement.
ES118: Environment and Society
Bruesewitz, Sullivan, 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.
HI348: U.S. Environmental History
We will consider nature’s role in shaping history. How do our stories change when we include microbes, pigs, and the climate, alongside subjects like presidents, wars, and ideas? We will also ask what nature has meant to a range of people including the Comanche on the Great Plains, settler-farmers in New England, and coal miners in Colorado. The aim is that you begin to think about nature differently: how ideas about nature have changed, how nature surrounds & nourishes us and has been used to justify violence & racism, and how nature impedes on our lives.
IT242: Italian Ecopoetics: Beauty, Loss, Desire
In the last few decades, literature and the arts have addressed the environmental crisis through creative representations. Yet, are these ecopoetics exclusively environmentalist works? Or can more traditional nature writing foster an ecocritical discourse? This course explores these key questions by investigating how in the 20th and 21st centuries Italian poets, artists, and directors have reworked the classical motif of the beautiful place–a place where beauty, loss, and desire intermingle. Beauty surprisingly becomes a lens to represent and interpret the complex interconnection of environmental and sociocultural issues. Taught in English.
PL398A: Nature, Sex, Power: New Materialisms
Oppositions between matter and consciousness, nature and culture, and body and mind structure much of the Western philosophical tradition. Recent work in feminist philosophy, science studies, and political theory, however, offers a different picture, grouped under the heading of “new materialisms.” Here, materiality itself is viewed as active and animate; not only shaped by cultural practices, but actively involved in forming cultural, political, and economic realities. This class charts a course through current scholarship on materiality, with special attention paid to the operations of matter and meaning, nature and consciousness, as they bear on questions of political agency and sexuality. Readings include texts by Friedrich Nietzsche, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad and others.
RE232: American Spirituality and the Environment
This course 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.
SP 135: Introduction to Critical Analysis – Eco-Fiction & Eco-Thought
This course is an introduction to critical analysis through a variety of eco-fiction and eco-thought provoking readings from Latin American, Spanish, and/or U.S. Latinx authors. We will explore human accountability to the environment and the presence of the nonhuman environment in fiction. Students will learn how to examine cultural products such as literature, film, performance, and visual culture through close reading, thematic analysis, and strategies of interpretation. Students develop skills in writing critical essays and learn the basics of scholarly research.
SP237: Conquest and Resistance in the Americas
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 way of life were jeopardized confronted the Europeans deploying an array of resistance strategies to protect their lives, culture, and environment. A similar struggle is still going on today with different actors. Students will engage with texts and materials from different areas and time periods to uncover and analyze the many ways in which conquest and resistance came into play and how an Environmental Humanities approach may provide a new perspective.