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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

2006 Symposium - Monday, August 14th - Odegaard Undergraduate Library, Room 220

A celebration of undergraduate research and creative scholarly work in the arts and humanities!

Summer Institute 2006

This symposium is the culminating event of the fifth annual Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities. Twenty students and four faculty from the Comparative Literature, English, Geography, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Philosophy departments have been working together since June on research projects centered on the theme of nature and environmental experience.

Each of the twenty students formally presented their research and engaged in discussion with their peers and other faculty.

Presentation Schedule

8:45 - 9:00: Light Refreshments in OUGL 220

9:00 - 9:05: Introdution

9:05 - 10:30: Session 1

Evan Wright, English and Comparative Literature

"Nature and Nation: developing perspectives of primacy in Finland and North America"

In the far, often inhospitable north, one of the greatest challenges for a people, both individually and as a group, is creating a home in a harsh landscape. Not only does this mean finding a place to live, with shelter and a supply of food, but also creating a home: identifying with the land. This challenge, because difficult, creates a sense of accomplishment, as well as requiring and developing a close relationship between humans and the natural world in which they live their daily lives. From the primordial stirrings of their oral history up until the cutting edge of contemporary literature, the environment in which Finns have found themselves appears centrally. It is not incidental, then, that this natural environment, unique in many ways, became the central motif of a young, burgeoning national identity, against the background of colonization and historical occupation by a succession of foreign powers. In many ways, the development of the English language, and to some extent the interaction of Western civilizations with the indigenous people of North America, parallels the development of Finnish culture, especially in the young and developing United States. Similar themes appear in both bodies of literature against the backdrop of the natural world. In both cases, this natural world is heavily taken from as a source of national identity.

Mike Connelly, English and Spanish

"The Columbia River and the Northwest: Cycles of Change"

In the past century, nothing has done more to change the landscape of the Northwest than the damming of the Columbia River, a decades-long process that symbolically began with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which did more to physically change the river than any other individual dam. The physical effects of damming have additionally brought accompanying economic, ecological, and cultural changes to the Northwest. Damming and these changes that followed it are the products of shifting human perspectives towards the Columbia River and nature in general. In turn, the process of damming the Columbia has itself served to alter these perspectives, part of a cycle of change in which human attitudes influence the environment and vice versa. By examining how damming has changed the Columbia River, and how human perspectives, as seen through a variety of cultural artifacts from Indian myths to contemporary literature, have both created and responded to this change, we can better understand the operation of this cycle of environmental change.

Anagha Gadgil, English Literature

"Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard: Exploring Russia's Road to Modernity from a Timescape Perspective"

Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard was a phenomenal theatrical success in early 20th century because it voices the economic and social Russian sentiments forty years after the 1861 Emancipation of the serfs. I explore Chekhov's play, which departs from realism into the world of symbolism, through his portrayal of the titular cherry orchard as a microcosm of early 20th century Russia - that is, as a hybrid blend of westernized and traditional identities as shown through the perspectives of old, landowner Madame Ranevsky and the merchant capitalist and ex-serf, Lopakhin. Ranevskaya's mind is dissociated with present time as she dwells in an idyllic and past aristocratic lifestyle and emotionally associates the orchard with sentimental, childhood innocence. Lopakhin, on the other hand, feels trapped in present time provided the timeless essence of the cherry orchard, a growing impediment to his capitalist cause. The eventual outcome from the clashing of temporal perspectives between the traditional Ranevsky family and the merchant capitalist is manifest on the landscape; in order to progress time into the future and in the effort to homogenize the estate into urban landscape, Lopakhin purchases and demolishes the orchard to lease out the lands as suburban villas to tourists. Ultimately, the play advocates a realist vision of Russia progressing in a Western linear temporality to a capitalist and industrial future.

Mark Gifford, Comparative Literature

"Miming Nature and Undermining Humanity: the Future Revolution of Artificial Nature"

Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, as well as Ridley Scott's film adaptation Blade Runner, depicts a future utterly depleted of nature. Life itself is on the brink of extinction, yet the few remaining humans cling to a sense of connection to their environment, prizing their pets above all else. However, the creation of artificial beings which mimic both animals and humans presents a dilemma. These man-made constructions, in many ways, surpass the original, genuine lifeforms and, despite their inability to feel life, have come to replace their living counterparts. Moreover, it is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between the real and the fake. Technology, as it were, has the ability to overtake and supplant the natural world. On the other hand, such artifice fails to feel for life, working instead to mitigate the connection of humans and their environment. Dick's novel of a man hunting the androids who only want to be human presents two possible outcomes: replacement of the natural or, rather, coalescence of the natural and the artificial worlds. They are two sides of the same environment, but in the end, it is humans who will choose how to respect and, if possible, save the world of beasts and machines.

Rachel Jenkins, English and Comparative History of Ideas

"Edgar Allan Poe and the Grotesque: Embodiment, Permeability, and the Natural World"

In this project I will investigate how theories of female embodiment, pertaining to boundaries of the self, relate to the environment and the individual's relationship with the natural world. I will attempt to demonstrate how symbolic and literary renderings of the body manifest in the grotesque and challenge conventionally accepted binaries. The project will work from a focused reading of The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. Ultimately, the project aims to understand how Poe relocates the human body back in nature by mingling the dead with the living; how traditional categories breakdown when the body is encroached upon and violated by sickness, and imagined bodily thresholds transgressed.

10:30 - 10:45: Break

10:45 - 12:15: Session 2

Sonya Hamberg, Scandinavian Studies

"Bukk fra Luften, bukk fra Bunnen: the Importance of the Natural World in Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen"

Henrik Ibsen's eleventh play, Peer Gynt, unlike many of his later plays is set largely in the outdoors and has a lot to say about man's relationship with the natural world. Peer Gynt, the main character, is on a quest to define what it means to be himself and to embody that. Like Ibsen in real life, Peer lives his early life in the Norwegian countryside and later spends a large portion of time away from Norway. He discovers upon his return home that part of what it means to be oneself is strongly related to the land one comes from. On his quest he crosses paths with the Trolls, which are beings that are neither human nor animal but something in between. The Troll King reveals to Peer that he is more troll than human and therefore more animal than the average man. The play by Ibsen and the music by Edvard Grieg are heavily influenced by the beauty of the Norwegian landscape and are considered quintessentially Norwegian as they tie in with a general Norwegian identity of fjords, mountains, sea, and outdoor life.

Gary Carpenter, Painting and Drawing

"Thomas Cole and the Consumption of the American Landscape"

Representations of the land in the painted image not only indicate the social view of our relationship with nature, but also help shape which environments we place aesthetic value on, and ultimately how we choose to treat all natural environments. Although I do not feel that artists have a responsibility to carefully choose the manner in which they depict nature based solely on its possible social or environmental effects, it is worth the artist's time to examine the power of the image and the impact that the changing representation of the land can have on society and on the ways we relate with our natural environment. Through the examination of one artist, we might gain a better understanding of the influence and power that a painted image can have on nature in a given place and historical period. This research focuses on American landscape artist Thomas Cole (1801-1848), his influence on the art community, as well as the unexpected effects of his ideas on the American landscape genre and the popular 'consumption' of nature in America.

Anna Waters, English and Comparative Religion

"Disney and the Environment: Lions and Tigers and Deer - Oh My?"

Prominent environmentalist Roderick Nash once remarked that the Disney animated classic Bambi (1942) did "more to shape American attitudes towards fire in wilderness ecosystems than all the scientific papers ever published on the subject." Fifty-two years after Bambi, Disney released the blockbuster The Lion King (1994) and again sparked controversy surrounding its environmental content and ideological agenda. The Lion King remains not only Disney's highest grossing animated film ever, but also one of the most successful films of all time, continuing to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Through a comparative case analysis of these two classic Disney films, my research is in large part an attempt to understand the ideological evolution of Disney's environmental "mission," how we might locate The Lion King and Bambi within the broader context of environmentalism itself, and what this means in terms of both shaping our "American attitudes" towards nature and the ways in which Disney has often been thought of as reflecting the values already present in mainstream American culture.

Ingrid Haftel, English and Comparative History of Ideas

"Open Spaces? Tracing the Margins in Seattle's Pioneer Square Parks"

This project seeks to identify the ways in which Pioneer Square Park and Occidental Park, two public parks in Seattle's historic downtown region are highly politicized and, thus, contested spaces. This research necessarily critiques the assumption which holds urban parks as 'natural' and innocent spaces; in the words of Simon Schama, '[Although] we are accustomed to separate nature and human perception into two realms, they are, in fact, indivisible. Before it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is a work of the mind. ' Through historical research, an examination of Seattle municipal planning and codes, analysis of design policy, community interviews, and photographic data, I highlight the conditions which support the continued marginalization of certain groups and social issues in these parks. In constructing the dominant narrative of Pioneer Square and Occidental Parks, this project seeks to make room for the re-imagining of these valuable Seattle resources as sustainable and truly public spaces.

Don Pham, Comparative History of Ideas

"DNA as a Natural Resource"

The method in which we harness, extract, and use our natural resources is deeply intertwined with our relationship with nature. When one changes, so must the other. DNA has the potential to serve as industry's next great natural resource, the product of natural selection. But how will DNA compare to other resources we've used in the past? As part of the presentation, we will watch a mock preview for the screenplay Watermark, an ongoing work of science fiction developed by the same author as part of a separate project.

12:30 - 1:30: Lunch in OUGL 220

1:30 - 3:00: Session 3

Melora Bacheller, English, Humanities and Anthropology minor

"The Spanish Mustang: Pest or Endangered Horse Breed?"

Horses originated and evolved in North America and later became extinct about 11,000 years ago during the later part of the Pleistocene. They were reintroduced to North America by the Spanish in the 16th century; eventually spreading onto the plains, Great Basin, and other areas of the continent until they numbered in the millions. Today there are few of the original Iberian descendants remaining that evolved and adapted to harsh environmental conditions. The 'wild horse' and 'mustang' are deconstructed in their many contexts, and ruling myths are re-examined. The consideration of wild horses in a political ecological approach is explored.

Sigma Chang, International Studies

"Environmentalism and Baltic Independence"

The purpose of my presentation is to examine the role that environmentalist movements played in achieving Baltic independence from the Soviet Union. The argument I pose is that in many ways, but especially after perestroika/glasnost, environmental causes acted largely as a masking agent for nationalist and separatist agendas. In my presentation I will address in a limited fashion the dynamics of the Baltic nationalism and Baltic history with the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. I will also examine environmental movements in the Soviet Union.

Alex Kyllo, International Studies, Chinese Language and Literature

"Chinese Sheep and Mongol Wolves: Narratives of Environmental Change on the Inner Mongolian Grassland"

This research project investigates the conflicting narratives on the causes of and solutions to the degradation of grasslands in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in northern China. Western scholars have criticized the Chinese state-endorsed narratives, which tend to either blame the locals or past regimes. This project explores the emergence of a new, native counter-narrative, as reflected in the bestselling Chinese novel Wolf Totem, and its implications for China's popular discourse on the connections between ethnicity and ecology.

Hans Larson, Law, Societies and Justice

"Application of the Degradation and Marginalization Thesis in the Experiences and Recent History of the Beja People"

The purpose of this research project is to demonstrate Paul Robbins' degradation and marginalization thesis in the field of political ecology using the recent history of the Beja tribes as a narrative. The Beja tribes inhabit the desert to semi-arid lands of the hills, valleys and planes between the Nile River and the Red Sea primarily in northeastern Sudan but also in parts of Egypt and Eritrea. The traditional Beja means of subsistence through camel herding has been disrupted by 'development' projects beginning in the late nineteenth century leading to unsustainable use of the environment and social marginalization of the Beja people. This research project details the 'development' schemes, the reasons for their construction, and their results on the environment and human population of the Beja.

Thomas Strub, Geography and Comparative History of Ideas

"Feeding the People: Organically grown grassroots movement in Seattle, Washington "

Due to growing environmental and social justice concerns with the methods by which residents of cities obtain their food, the call for an alternative food network has become increasingly popular. Though certainly related to the rising demand for organic products, this call specifically seeks to provide citizens with food that is nutritious, environmentally and socially sustainable, and that is grown for local consumption. This project investigates ideas about alternative food networks as well as city organizations, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups in Seattle that reflect a movement towards these ideas. By way of interviews and participant observation, I aim to construct a dialog between my understanding of these groups and organizations, scholarly research on alternative food networks, and a larger movement dedicated to the environment, social justice, and sustainability.

3:00 - 3:15: Break

3:15 - 4:45: Session 4

Matthew Richardson, English and Comparative Literature

"On the Streets Where You Live"

This presentation is an examination of administrative environmentalism at the University of Washington. An initial background of influencing factors such as the changing of campus designs over the years will be discussed, which will lead into the present state of conservative and sustainable planning at the UW, ranging from specific buildings to campus-wide directives. This will be followed by an examination of the goals and future of the university as an environmentally responsible institution.

Matt Jernberg, Math, Philosophy, and Human Rights minor

"The Naturalistic Fallacy in an Environmental Ethic"

Can Environmental Ethics ignore or escape from the classical philosophical problems of the past? My answer is "no," by demonstrating how a particular variety of a environmental ethic, as exemplified by Holmes Rolston III, ceases to be philosophically defensible when it does this regarding a classical problem in value theory concerning what is called the "naturalistic fallacy." I shall explicate the naturalistic fallacy and its associated concepts within value theory; explain why it indeed is a fallacy and ought to be taken seriously; and then present Rolston's theory of the value of nature (as a representative of a particular variety of environmental ethics) and detail its engagement with the naturalistic fallacy. By doing so, I hope to show by example how Environmental Ethics can learn from engagement with such classical philosophical problems.

Maiensy Sanchez, Anthropology

"Explorations in the Art of Environmental Thinking and Practice-Weak Anthropocentrism, Justice in the South and the Challenge of Translation"

Environmental studies cover an ample range of theoretical frameworks and methodological strategies. Applied philosophy, political ecology and environmental justice are among the analytical venues reasoning about local and global ecological crises. In doing so, there is the inescapable question of how to place human kind in relation to the natural world. This analytical landscape becomes particularly urgent when turning the lens to the South where ethical concerns go beyond the luxury of aesthetics and non-human approaches to the issue. This work seeks to explore the current state by focusing on some of the most relevant environmental discourses with an appeal to synthesize what others dichotomize as something comparable to nature vs. humanity. Several examples support the previous account. Lastly, there is a brief consideration of the issue of translatability or the challenges in publicly addressing the equally pressing quests for societal and environmental justice.

Michael Greaves, Philosophy and Linguistics, and
Syed Obaid Quadri
, Philosophy and Mathematics

"On Environmental Ethics: A Religious Perspective"

The magnitude of the current environmental crisis is unprecedented in human history as it threatens to destroy the very existence of life on Earth. Religious traditions, or the ones with which we are concerned in this paper, namely, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, developed long before the industrial era, and as such, did not foresee the ecological catastrophe that is currently being created. However, an environmental ethic, i.e. an ethic concerning human relations with and human attitudes towards non-human sentient creatures and nature at large, is found, at least implicitly, within the three religious traditions. Our aim in this paper is to explore and spell out explicitly the environmental ethic found within each tradition and to critique and comparatively assess the differing ethics. Further, we will discuss briefly the impact of religious environmental ethics in environmental activism and the failure of religion, generally speaking, to respond to the ecological crisis we face today.

4:45 - 5:00: Closing remarks

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