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2006 SIAH

Nature Matters: On the Varieties of Environmental Experience

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.

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Teaching Team

José Alaniz

Assistant Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures and Comparative Literature,

José Alaniz , Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Department of Comparative Literature (adjunct), has taught courses on post-Soviet Russian literature and film, Czech literature and film, Death and Dying in Russian Culture, the Horror Film and the relation between Comics and Cinema. He counts a 2004 Discovery Seminar, “Fakes,” among his all-time favorite teaching experiences. Dr. Alaniz’s current research focuses on Disability in late/post-Soviet Russian culture and post-Soviet Russian comics. He has taught two courses on the environment: “‘Back’ to ‘Nature'” at the University of California at Berkeley and “Nature(s)” at UW. Both courses emphasized the visual representation of the natural world, especially in film, photography and painting.

Gary Handwerk

Professor, English and Comparative Literature,

Gary Handwerk is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UW, and chair of the Department of Comparative Literature. His recent work has focused upon the fields of European Romanticism (Godwin, Rousseau) and ecocriticism, as that approach can be applied to narrative and non-fictional prose from the eighteenth century to the present. He is currently at work on a Stanford UP translation of Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human . Each spring, he teaches an undergraduate course on literature and the environment that is cross-listed with the Program on the Environment and taught in a parallel version in local high schools.

Lucy Jarosz

Associate Professor, Geography,

Lucy Jarosz is an associate professor of the Department of Geography. She received her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California-Berkeley and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research and teaching interests focus upon rural development and rural poverty, food and agriculture, and agrarian development and environmental change. These interests are informed by Marxist political economy, political ecology and poststructural feminist and postcolonial theory. She has conducted fieldwork in Madagascar, South Africa and the American Northwest and is currently examining discourses around international food security in her research.

Andrew Light

Associate Professor, Philosophy and Public Affairs,

Andrew Light is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Affairs at UW. He is also a Research Fellow at the Institute for Philosophy & Public Policy at Lancaster University (U.K.), and a Faculty Fellow of the Center for Sustainable Development in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Light has written, edited or co-edited 18 books on environmental ethics, philosophy of technology, and aesthetics, including Environmental Pragmatism (Routledge 1996), Philosophies of Place (Rowman & Littlefield 1999), Technology and the Good Life? (Chicago 2000), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (MIT 2003), Reel Arguments: Film, Philosophy, and Social Criticism (Westview 2003), and The Aesthetics of Everyday Life (Columbia 2005). Light is also co-editor of the journal Ethics, Place, and Environment and serves on the editorial boards of Environmental Ethics , Environmental Values , Ecological Restoration , and the Journal of Architectural Education . He is currently finishing a book on the ethics of restoration ecology.

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