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Bath Spa Research Centre for Environmental Humanities Public Lecture Series 2017–18.

Lectures will normally be held on Wednesdays 6-8.00 in the Commons Building at Newton Park and include light refreshments to follow.

For more on our events and discussions, see the Bath Spa University Environmental Humanities blog.

October 18

Merle Patchett, Geography, University of Bristol:

From Sexual Selection to Sex in the City: The Biogeographies of the Blue Bird-of-Paradise.

November 15

This lecture is jointly presented by Intercultural Communication through Practice Research Group from 14.00-16.00

Lila Matsumoto, University of Nottingham:

Poetic Technologies: Exploring Hebridean renewable energy production through poetry- sculpture collaboration

December 13

Tim Dee, nature writer and BBC presenter:

Writing a Season – a talk about a work in progress about the world in progress.

Past events

Inaugural Symposium

Environmental Humanities: Doing Interdisciplinarity with Depth

15-16 December 2016

It is increasingly well-recognised that today’s complex socio-environmental problems cannot be adequately understood, let alone redressed, from either side of the nature-culture divide that structured the modern constitution of knowledge, and that remains embedded in our educational and research institutions, as well as in dominant cultural imaginaries and social practices. Over the past few decades a growing number of scholars on both sides of the great divide have embraced the challenge of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research. In some cases, this has also entailed creative conversations between modern Western and other ways of knowing.

Bath Spa University’s Research Centre for Environmental Humanities seeks to advance this multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary project across the University, in collaboration with artists, scholars, extra-academic organisations, and the wider community, locally, nationally and internationally. However, we also recognise that this is easier said than done. In our inaugural symposium, we therefore want to move beyond motherhood statements to explore the challenges involved in doing interdisciplinarity well and ‘at depth’ across the Environmental Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and to consider the impediments and opportunities that might line our potential pathways to impact.

Among the key questions that we will be pursuing with a group of eminent scholars from diverse disciplines and inter-disciplines are the following:
What is the place of in-depth specialist knowledge in the inter- and transdisciplinary space of the Environmental Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences?

Might the distinct methodologies conventionally deployed by different disciplines express deeper onto-epistemological divides, and if so, how might these be exposed and negotiated?

With increasing acknowledgement of the value of local and indigenous knowledges (e.g. in the 2014 IPCC Report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability), there is a risk that such traditional stores of knowledge might be mined for global policy agendas that disregard the particular interests, values and ontologies of generally marginalised and disempowered communities. How might this risk be averted?
What diplomatic protocols might be called for in conducting cross- and inter-cultural, along with inter- and transdisciplinary research in the Environmental Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences?

As policy-makers press for greater interdisciplinarity, notably in response to the ‘global challenges’ posed by the UN’s new Sustainable Development goals, do we need new models of evaluation to ensure scholarly rigour while fostering innovation?

How might inter- and transdisciplinary research best be advanced within higher education? What challenges does this pose to current institutional structures, degree programmes, and pedagogies?

What impediments and opportunities exist for researchers in the Environmental Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to engage effectively with extra-academic communities, media, businesses, NGOs, and policy makers?

What types of national and international association and vehicles of communication might provide the best avenues for advancing the Environmental Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, locally, nationally and internationally?

These questions will be addressed through a series of multi-disciplinary panels relating to particular topics and aspects of Arts, Humanities and Social Science research, including the following:

  • Spatio-temporalities
  • Onto-epistemologies and Ethics
  • NaturalCultural calamities
  • HumAnimalities
  • Ecopoetries and ecopoetics

Confirmed speakers:

  • Greg Bankoff (Modern History, University of Hull)
  • Emily Brady (Philosophy and Environmental Humanities, Edinburgh University)
  • David Farrier (English and Environmental Humanities, Edinburgh University)
  • Steven Hartman (Literature and Environmental Humanities, Mid-Sweden University)
  • Graham Harvey (Religious Studies, Open University)
  • Poul Holm (History and Environmental Humanities, Trinity University, Dublin)
  • Graham Huggan (English and Environmental Humanities, Leeds University)
  • Mike Hulme (Climate and Culture, King’s College, London)
  • Michael Northcott (Ethics, Theology and Environmental Humanities, Edinburgh University)
  • Wendy Wheeler (Culture, Ecology and Biosemiotics, London Metropolitan University and Goldsmiths College, London)
  • Nicola Whyte (History and Environmental Arts and Humanities, Exeter University

For videos of the symposium presentations, please see our blog.

Being Human Festival of the Humanities

As part of the British Academy’s Festival of the Humanities, Bath Spa presented three public engagement events concerning peoples’ hopes and fears in relation to environmental change:

Changing Landscapes, Rising Waters

November 19

Burdall’s Yard, Bath

3.00-5.00

Kate Rigby, Owain Jones and Sam Walton present a series of short talks and film screenings arising from their current research projects, all of which concern peoples relationships with the watery worlds of ocean, estuaries and rivers during a time of rapid climatic and environmental change.

Environmental Literature Reading and Discussion

November 21

Toppings Bookstore, Bath

8.00-10.00

Three of Bath Spa’s creative writers, Stephen Moss, Maggie Gee, and Samantha Walton, will read from their work and discuss how it explores the hopes and fears that are inextricably entangled with the living landscapes we inhabit at this time of rapid environmental change and biodiversity loss.

“Gobaith ac ofn; Dwy sgriniad / Hope and fear: two screenings”

Friday 25 November

Aberystwyth Arts Centre,
Aberystwyth, Friendship Inn,
Borth

14.00–16.00 (Timeline)
19.00–21.00 (Y Gors)

We used to think of climate change as something that happens in far-flung places, or in the future. Yet many of us have now experienced extreme weather in West Wales. How do we make sense of this? Join us for a screening of two short films. Timeline takes us on an ecological journey from the low-lying island nation Kiribati back home to Aberystwyth, where the promenade is eroded by waves. The second film is ‘Y Gors’, a community-produced film and soundscape about Cors Fochno, the raised bog that occupies a significant position in the psyche of the locality. If the bog had a voice, how would it sound and what would it say to us? Visit beinghumanfestival.org for event times.

Professorial Lecture: Professor Kate Rigby, Director of Bath Spa University’s Research Centre for Environmental Humanities

Infernal Ecologies: Literature, ethics, and fire 'down under’

October 5th 2016

Newton Park G23/24 Commons

6-8pm

This talk brings an ecocritical perspective to the phenomenon of wildfire, with specific reference to the potentially catastrophic firestorms of south-eastern Australia, which are set to become more frequent and intense as the planet warms and droughts lengthen and deepen as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change. This research is located within a longer history of transdisciplinary conversations in the environmental humanities in Australia since the late 1990s.

Putting pressure on the concept of ‘natural disaster’, attention is brought to the complex entanglement of human and nonhuman players in the genesis and unfolding of socio-ecological calamity. As the work of environmental historians, such as Tom Griffiths and Stephen Pyne, have demonstrated, such entanglements are particularly intense in the case of bushfire in Australia, the fieriest continent on this fiery planet.

Here I argue that literary works of the creative imagination open a space within which to consider also their affective and ethical dimensions, and conclude with a discussion of two very different poetic responses to the cultural ecology of bushfire: Henry Lawson’s “The Fire at Ross’s Farm” (1891) and Jordie Albiston’s “Lamentations” (2013), written in the wake of the Victorian firestorm of 2009.

ACU Commonwealth Summer School 2017

Environmental Humanities: Perspectives in Practice – Postgraduate Forum

Friday 14 July, 2pm-6pm, Newton Park Commons Rm. 136.

The first Environmental Humanities Postgraduate Forum is intended as a student-led event, providing an opportunity for presentations on work-in-progress, to which staff are warmly invited. Refreshments will be provided, with a small reception closing the event.

Speakers’ Abstracts and Bios

Patricia Brien

Stroudwater Scarlet cloth

Exploring the dynamic human & non-human relations in site-specific fabric – boundless Kin(g)doms that matter 

Initial investigations into Stroudwater Scarlet cloth ('Strouds'), the red woollen cloth and the related industries and artefacts emanating from the Stroud Valley, shows an intriguing mesh of colonial and trade relations as evidenced by material objects including uniforms and indigenous garments. This 'social life' of the fabric bears witness to both Colonial and commercial forces and unexpected use within a global trade network. The nonhuman network embedded within the cloth is legible too and this research seeks to ‘read’ the elements inherent in the cloth. By interpreting the 'process of mattering' (Barad, 2003) we may comprehend several viewpoints and beings that are 'caught in the fabric of the world' (Merleau-Ponty). Through a body of reflexive, practice-led research projects it is anticipated that the interpretation of the material objects and artefacts may provide other understandings of human and non-human relations. The project-led component of my research will be divided into four different categorisations of matter state based upon a determined number of elements in the fabric. The methodology will be differentiated for each 'Kin(g)dom'.

Patricia Brien is currently Principal Lecturer in Fashion and 3D Design at the University of South Wales. Her area of specialisation is sustainability, materiality and alternative spiritualities in relation to textiles and garments. She completed her MA Research (Textiles) at RMIT in 2015 under the title of Re-Enchanting Fashion which explored notions of place, material and ritual in a participatory project called Spiritus Loci. She holds a BA and MA (course work) in English Literature from UNSW. She lives in Stroud and participates in earth-centred circles.

 

Aiyana Rosen

Human-Animal Relations in the German Dairy Industry

A genealogical analysis

Despite their strongly controversial character, human-animal relations in dairy production have hardly been focussed on in human-animal studies, the environmental humanities or adjacent fields of research. Therefore, in my thesis I investigate human-animal relations in the German dairy industry using Foucault's concept of genealogy as well as his archaeological method of discourse analysis. The key sources that my analysis is based on are agricultural science books and agricultural literature of three historical time spans between 1800 and 1970. Additionally, I look at contemporary agricultural (science) discourse. Drawing on the Foucauldian concept of power-knowledge, I seek to answer the question as to how the knowledge on cows used for dairy production historically evolved within power-knowledge relations. Additionally, I analyse how this knowledge materialised in actual practices and the bodies and lives of the cows. On a methodological level, I seek to answer the question as to how a Foucauldian genealogy has to be adapted in order to adequately analyse human-animal relations.

Aiyana Rosen is a Ph.D. student at the Institute for Political Science of the Free University Berlin. She has been at the Centre for Environmental Humanities in Bath for a research semester since April. Aiyana holds an M.A. degree in political science, modern history and philosophy. One of her main research interests is the critical analysis of human-animal relations. In that field she has co-edited two books and published several papers. She is a co-founder of a research group for human-animal studies (Chimaira) as well as one of the founding members of an educational organisation (Mensch Tier Bildung) that creates and gives workshops on animals in agriculture.

Ben Crushcov

I’ve come to talk to you briefly about the script for a feature film I’m writing, as part of my MA course, about a group of Greenpeace protestors who were arrested in the Arctic. The group were called the Arctic 30 – unsurprisingly the name of the film – and you might remember them and their plight from the time of the incident, back in 2013.

My talk will cover how I came to be writing my own draft for a film that has actually been scheduled to get made and how I approached the research and creative processes of the project. Mine is what you might consider ‘a ghost draft’. I am sending it to the producer, who said he will forward it on to his ‘creative team’, but there are already well-known and professional writers working on the official draft.

Ben Crushcov is an MA Scriptwriting student from Corsham, who is specialising in writing for television, radio and independent films. He has spent the last four years of his life teaching English and gaining profession experience as a features writer and editor,  whilst studying at BSU – he completed a first class honours degree in education and creative writing, before moving on to a postgraduate course this year. He is a single parent to two boys and a rugby coach, and aims to teach the craft of writing in academia alongside developing his screenwriting career after graduating.

Lydia Halcrow

Mapping place through the visual arts: a contemporary approach to landscape.

In this paper I will look at contemporary artists who create visual artwork, primarily paintings and drawings that ‘map’ and ‘record’ different aspects of a place. The work moves away from a traditional ‘landscape view’ towards a more layered, ambiguous representation of a place and its uses. I will examine different processes and techniques being used; from John Virtue’s multiple panels of landscape imagery to Julie Mehretu’s layered drawings of historical buildings and unrealized architectural plans; Ingrid Calame’s tracings of spills and graffiti along the L.A River and Mark Bradford’s use of found paper flyers from his neighbourhood.

Within this context, I will discuss the development of my own visual artwork in response to walks along and research into the Taw and Torridge Estuaries in North Devon as a way to capture and convey a sense of their unique identity. Themes of walking, texture, time, memory, layers and the small or overlooked details underpin my work, which aims to create multifaceted and multi-layered ‘maps’ that provide a textural response in an increasingly digital world 

Lydia is an Artist and Researcher currently part-way through a practice-based PhD in Fine Art. Her focus is an ongoing exploration of abandoned places captured through painting, drawing and experimental recording techniques. She adopts processes that engage with passing time, weathering, decay and entropy to reflect the natural processes that are particular to the places where she walks and works. Her works come together to create a series of multi-layered, textural maps and recordings that aim to capture and convey her experience walking in and researching a place.

Charlotte Shipperley

“Flooding the Bathtub: The Politics of Invisibility and Community Resilience in Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)”.

The intensification of coastal erosion has left the road leading to the Isle de Jean Charles in Southern Louisiana vulnerable to flooding, cutting off the island from the mainland. Its jeopardy is just one example of the environmental challenges facing the bayou communities. As an important symbol in Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, the erasure of the road dissolves the path to family, dwelling place and home. This paper explores the film’s focus on water as a material center and geopolitical framework for theorizing diasporic and regional connectivity. It builds upon Nixon’s conception of “unimagined communities” to argue that Zeitlin urges a reconsideration of anthropogenic environmental change in terms of defiance against the effects of industrial-capitalist development. It shows how the adaptive survival of the Bathtub community departs from the concept of environmental disaster as singular, relating it to past policies of deregulation and privatization enacted across the region.

I completed my BA in English Studies at the University of Exeter in 2013 and returned later in the year to undertake an MA in English Literary Studies, researching representations of flooding in contemporary literature and film.

I am very fortunate to have been awarded a Studentship in the Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University. My thesis, entitled “‘[S]wift with the advancing tide’: Flood Narratives in the Anthropocene”, examines the ways in which the material and discursive particularities of flood narratives and their political trajectories act as topological metaphors for examining environmental relations within the Anthropocene.

Ruth Olden, PhD

Lost world of the nearby: Minimal ethics on Govan Graving Docks

In this presentation I will consider what it means to do engaged environmental humanities research on a fated landscape. The focus falls on a rewilded ruined landscape in the city of Glasgow, Govan Graving Docks, a significant cultural landscape that now faces contested commercial redevelopment. In 2014, I staged a repertoire of salvage-research practices on the docks to better understand the communities, ecologies and enduring bonds that stood to lose out to the redevelopment, and also to make meaningful differences on the ground in the process. These practices were emergent, urgent, collaborative and public-facing, and strongly influenced by Zylinska’s ‘minimal ethics for the Anthropocene’ which identifies modes of working for contexts in which life is under threat. By identifying the particular challenges that the fated landscape presents to the invested researcher, and the methodological resources that are available to sustain research in contexts of destruction and uncertainty, this presentation will consider what it means to respond to the dispossessions, extinctions and alienations wrought by the Anthropocene. A creative pragmatics (that can be put to work in instances of local environmental change) will be proposed for discussion and debate.

Ruth is a cultural geographer, landscape architect and landscape writer, and she holds a PhD in cultural geography from the University of Glasgow. Ruth is interested in the bonds that tie people and place, and how they can become a source of resilience in times of environmental and social uncertainty. Her work takes her to ruins, wastelands and industrial shadowlands, where these connections are under increasing strain. She works with communities to critically story these landscapes, to imagine and to enact new forms of environmental engagement, and ultimately to forge new kinds of resiliencies and dependencies across local landscapes and communities.

Laura Denning

Primordial; Hydrofeminism and Deep Listening

Astrida Neimanis, in her essay Hydrofeminism (Or, on becoming a body of water) asks what might becoming a body of water – ebbing, fluvial, dripping, coursing, traversing time and space, pooling as both matter and meaning – give to feminism, its theories and its practices?’ (2012:86). In undertaking a PhD is response to this question I have set myself up to explore potential responses through my art practice. My work has as its foundation the practice of painting, and over the years this has developed into film-making, or moving paintings. These are often combined with sound works that I call sonic drawings.  All my work uses water as a motif. I recently curated and presented a group exhibition that brought together eleven artists whose work considers how humans and other species relate to water. I shall consider a selection of the artworks as the vehicle for this paper.

Recipient of the BSU Research Centre for Environmental Humanities inaugural PhD Studentship. I trained as a painter and now use moving image, and sound, augmented reality and live art. I am particularly interested in site, data and sensation. My work is regularly selected for exhibition across the UK and beyond – my latest film (a conversation between an island, the mainland and the ocean, produced with the help of communities on Barra in the Outer Hebrides) will have been screened in the UK, USA, Italy, Greece, Australia, Portugal and Sweden by the end of 2017, in venues such as the Arnolfini, Bristol, Jill Craigie Cinema, Plymouth, and various international academic institutions. This project includes collaboration on a chapter of a book ‘Imagining Islands: Visual Culture in the Northern British Archipelago’ to be published by Routledge in late 2017.

2017 events

February 15

Julian Wolfreys, poet, novelist, musician and Professor of English at the University of Portsmouth, gave a talk on "Voicing the Land"

March 15

Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Conservation from the Bristol Zoo, spoke on the role of zoos in conservation (in association with Biology).

April 12

Arran Stibbe, Reader in Ecological Linguistics at the University of Gloucestershire, spoke on ecolinguistics and “the stories we live by”

May 24

Joni Adamson, Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, gave a talk on current developments in the environmental humanities.

May 17

Michael Tippett Centre: David Rothenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, presented a lecture/workshop on his improvisational music-making with nonhuman others (notably birds and whales), followed by a performance (also in the Michael Tippett Centre).

(In collaboration with Music)

May 10

This talk by Dolly Jørgensen, Associate Professor of History of Environment and Technology Luleå University of Technology, examined a pivotal effort to reintroduce the European beaver in Europe – the earliest successful beaver reintroduction project in Europe was bringing back the beaver to Sweden in 1922.

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