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The Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities

The 2006 Institute

Nature Matters: On the Varieties of Environmental Experience

June 19th - August 18th, 2006

Overview | Faculty | Students | Schedule | Symposium

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2006 Overview

The natural world -- whether conceived with or apart from its human inhabitants -- has been figured and re-figured in countless ways by individual societies across the course of human history. It is now common, for instance, to understand the cultural encounters of European explorers and people native to the Americas as shaped by two radically different understandings of nature, and human beings' place within it.

Over the course of this Institute, we will explore the ways in which social representations of nature come to inform and constrain different varieties of environmental experience.  Whether we encounter nature as something to be worshipped, tamed, instrumentalized, or preserved depends upon what we understand nature to be, how we represent it to ourselves. How, we might ask, do social and cultural assumptions, processes, and strategies shape not only the representation of nature, but even our knowledge and experience of it?  By pursuing these questions, we seek to become more self-aware, culturally and historically, of the particular practices through which humans construct their image of and relationship to the natural world, as well as the implications of these practices.

As an interdisciplinary group, we will be paying particular attention to the content and consequences of framing nature from various perspectives. Readings and discussions will consider historical, philosophical, sociological, literary, economic, visual, and geographical approaches to these questions. As individuals working on separate or linked research projects, we will also share information and ideas about how we represent nature among ourselves and to others across space and time. Most importantly, perhaps, we will use the occasion of our collective and individual work to reflect upon the responsibilities that accompany any choice among competing ways of experiencing nature-considering why it is that nature does or should matter to us.

Weeks 1-4 of the Institute will focus upon a set of shared readings that will be examined in both faculty lectures and group discussions. During these weeks, each of you will also define and commence a research project that you wish to undertake. The remaining 4 weeks of the institute will focus primarily upon these research projects, with smaller groups of faculty and students discussing the projects, reading drafts, offering feedback, etc. Each participant will then make a formal presentation of her or his project in the last week of summer quarter.

The Fifth Annual, 2006 UW Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities at the University of Washington is sponsored by Undergraduate Academic Affairs , the Simpson Center for the Humanities , the Office of Research , UW Educational Outreach , the Undergraduate Research Program, and the Mary Gates Endowment for Students .