Spring 2019


Kristina Lyons

Tuesday 1:30-4:30 PM

This course takes inspiration from conversations and practices occurring at the interfaces of cultural anthropology, the environmental humanities, and feminist science studies.  Anthropologist Stuart McLean (2017) has asked: “What might become of anthropology if it were to suspend its sometime claims to be a social science? What if it were to turn instead to exploring its affinities with art and literature as a mode of engaged creative practice carried forward in a world heterogeneously composed of humans and other than humans?” At the same time, the emergence of the environmental humanities as an academic discipline in the twenty-first century reflects the growing conviction on the part of diverse sectors that “environmental” problems cannot be solved by science and technology alone. Instead, cultivation of experimental methods and alliance building between the arts and social and natural sciences has become ever more important strategy in terms of fomenting public engaged scholarship. In this course, we will not necessarily suspend the social scientific claims of anthropology, and ethnography more specifically, but we will push our methodological premises and conceptual work to experiment with our objects of study, matters of concern, and the diverse materialities that emerge from and participate in our ethnographic work.   

Spring 2019

LARP 780-003

Nicholas Pevzner

Tuesday 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

What will it take to address climate change? Increasingly, it looks like it will take both a complete overhaul of energy infrastructure, and also a massive amount of carbon sequestration. How will carbon sequestration be depolyed, by whom, and what could it look like? How might future landscapes of carbon sequestration mirror previous patterns of energy extraction, or forge alternative pathways?

Landscapes of energy extraction and carbon sequestration may be located far from one another, yet they are closely connected through the dynamics of the carbon economy, the legacy patterns of territorial power and control, and of the cultural narratives that we tell. This seminar delves into energy infrastructure and its deeply-held cultural narratives, and analyzes some promising carbon sequestration practices and their cultural landscapes. Extraction and sequestration are two sides of an expanded concern with the resource territories required to power the industrialized world, and to deal with its byproducts.

The fist part of the class will look at how the large-scale infrastructure projects built to enable that extraction have long acted as powerful organizers of territory: how energy infrastructure projects have historically been used to project power, extract value, and reshape patterns of labor and settlement — whether it’s the canals that were built to support coal extraction in Pennsylvania, the geography of oil pipelines and oil ports, or emerging kinds of renewable energy that continue to carry old legacy patterns of power.

The second half — landscapes of sequestration — will survey a range of landscape strategies with the potential to “draw down” the atmospheric carbon pool — from new technological approaches, to new kinds of agriculture and forestry management, to coastal mangrove restoration and the farming of coastal “blue carbon.” We will investigate the ecological principles behind these strategies, and critically analyze the spatial and cultural effects that these practices can have.
From carbon markets to carbon capture, these practices are not neutral: this seminar will dig into the contested narratives of how carbon should be managed, and critically interrogates the spatial choices that will underpin the energy system of the future.

Landscapes of Extraction Course


Spring 2019


Oscar Aguirre Mandujano

Tuesday 1:30 - 4:30 PM

Around 8000 years ago, communities in the western part of the Eurasian steppe began to breed and ride horses. This process of domestication made horses central participants in human history. The domestication of the horse transformed military tactics, human mobility and communication, agriculture, and entertainment. Humans have transformed the horse as well, producing about 200 breeds with unique characteristics matched to human goals. This course traces the history of equine-human relations across the globe, using the horse as a focal point to think about animal-human relations in societies ranging from prehistoric Europe to the Spanish conquests of Latin America. Our inquiry will address not only the place of horses in these particular phases of world history, but also by extension the debates about human-animal relations in our society today. The Major or Minor geographic requirement fulfilled by this course will be determined by an individual student’s research paper topic.

Spring 2019

GSWS 492

Jacqueline N. Sadashige

Thursday 7:00 - 9:00 PM, online

In early 2017, animal rights lawyer Steve Wise argued that two of his clients should be afforded the rights of "personhood." The clients in question were chimpanzees. This case suggests that "speciesism" might soon be met with the same degree of suspicion as sexism and racism. This course will explore how such a shift could come about and what it might signal. We will begin by examining the western foundations of binaries such as human-animal and male-female and how such categories have manifested in culture. From here we will explore recent ecofeminist and post-humanist attempts to dismantle these constructs. Finally, we will investigate how our beliefs about who "we" are and what "we" are not can affect everything from the foods we eat to how we vacation. NOTE: a component of this course will involve on cross-cultural analysis with focus on case studies of ecotourism and wildlife management outside the US.

Spring 2019

GRMN 150

Simon Richter

Tuesday/Thursday 1:30 - 3:00 PM

As a result of climate change, the world that will take shape in the course of this century will be decidedly more inundated with water than we're accustomed to. The polar ice caps are melting, glaciers are retreating, ocean levels are rising, polar bear habitat is disappearing, countries are jockeying for control over a new Arctic passage, while low-lying cities and small island nations are confronting the possibility of their own demise. Catastrophic flooding events are increasing in frequency, as are extreme droughts. Hurricane-related storm surges, tsunamis, and raging rivers have devastated regions on a local and global scale. In this course, we will turn to the narratives and images that the human imagination has produced in response to the experience of overwhelming watery invasion, from Noah to New Orleans and beyond. Objects of analysis include mythology, ancient and early modern diluvialism, literature, art, film, and commemorative practice in countries and regions such as the United States, China, India, Thailand, the Middle East, the Netherlands, and Peru. The basic question we'll be asking is: What can we learn from the humanities that will be helpful for confronting the problems and challenges caused by climate change and sea level rise?

Spring 2019

PHIL 079-301

Derek Skillings

Monday/Wednesday 3:30 - 5:00 PM

In this course we will investigate some of the ethical issues that arise from our relationship with the environment. Topics may include : What are our responsibilities toward the environment, as individuals and as members of institutions? How do our responsibilities toward the environment relate to other ethical considerations? Do non-human animals/species/ecosystems have intrinsic value? What should conservationists conserve?

Spring 2019

GRMN 544-01/COML 562-401/URBS 544-401/ANTH 543-401

Bethany Wiggin

Wednesday 2:00-5:00 PM

Work in environmental humanities by necessity spans academic disciplines. By design, it can also address and engage publics beyond traditional academic settings. This seminar explores best practices in public environmental humanities. Students receive close mentoring to develop and execute cross-disciplinary, public engagement projects on the environment, including PPEH’s ongoing public engagement projects on urban waters and environmental data.  Training and workshops cover topics including: grant writing, project management and best practices for collaborative research, writing and editing for blogs and micro-blogs, podcasting, sonic and visual research practices. We take field trips and host guests, including PPEH's visiting writers and artists, and we will participate in two workshops led by our 2019 Artist in Residence, Roderick Coover.  Course assignments include 2 short-form essays (course blog posts) about your PPEH Research project, participation in all PPEH public programming, and, for Graduate Fellows, six-week editorship of the PPEH blog. This broadly interdisciplinary course is open only to Graduate and Undergraduate Fellows in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH). 

Spring 2019

ENGL 200-304

Zach Fruit

Monday/Wednesday 2:00 - 3:30 PM

Does the way we describe the physical world have the ability to change it? How do history and politics interact with the experience of place? Do concepts like race and gender change when we think of them in terms of space? In this class, we will consider these questions through a survey of texts by nineteenth-century British authors. We will develop ways of thinking about the concept of “environment” in an era that witnessed massive changes in the infrastructure of urban centers, new forms of travel and communication, and the height of British empire.

This course will explore a wide range of nineteenth-century texts with a focus on "environment" as a phenomenon that is deeply entangled with realism and modernism. We will read fiction by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad as well as poetry by William Wordsworth and Christina Rossetti and works by Dorothy Wordsworth, John Ruskin, and Charles Darwin. We will also be reading contemporary postcolonial, queer, and feminist theory as we attempt to develop a working definition of "environment." The syllabus will include a short walk as an opportunity to focus our discussion of sensation and perception.

This Junior Research Seminar is designed to introduce students to a variety of critical research skills and academic writing methods. In addition to a final research paper, assignments will include a short annotated bibliography, experiments in visual analysis, and creative writing exercises.

Victorian Environments Course Flyer

Spring 2019

STSC 381-401

Britt Dahlberg

Wednesday 2:00-5:00 PM

We live amidst a constant stream of messages, practices, and regulations about things, behaviors, or relationships deemed “toxic.” Within environmental health in particular, all sorts of actors grapple with complex decisions about what it means to live with materials and anticipate the ways they can interact with human health and the environment – at present through the distant future.  What exactly do we mean when we categorize some substances as toxic, and by extension others as safe? Are there other ways of managing uncertainty or conceptualizing harm? How are these concepts built into broader social structures, economics, and regulations? What other work are they used to do? In this course, we will explore major social science approaches to toxicity and apply these theories to our own analysis of examples from the contemporary United States, and in particular, to a robust oral history collection with residents, developers, and government scientists grappling with these questions just outside of Philadelphia.

This course grows out of scholarship in the history and anthropology of environmental risk, and health, as well as direct ethnographic, historical, and oral history research at a site outside of Philadelphia grappling with the meaning of materials that remain on site after past industrial manufacturing. In this course, students will gain an introduction to oral history and analysis of in-depth interviews, and introduction to key approaches in theorizing toxicity. By connecting life experiences of residents, government scientists and others, at an actual site, with the literatures we read in class, students will think critically about the ways the literatures we engage do and do not fully encompass the experiences and concerns that are intertwined with toxicity for actual people grappling with making sense of uncertain harms amidst urban planning.




This course is based on ethnographic and oral history research in Ambler, Pennsylvania, that is the basis of environmental humanities work, and introduces students to methods of public scholarship. The oral histories resulted in a play performance in Ambler. Photo by Conrad Erb
This course is based on ethnographic and oral history research in Ambler, Pennsylvania, that is the basis of environmental humanities work, and introduces students to methods of public scholarship. The oral histories resulted in a play performance in Ambler. Photo by Conrad Erb


Spring 2019

STSC 207-301

Lawrence Kessler

Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 - 1:30 PM

This course examines how agricultural science has shaped the modern world. It focuses on the lands touching the Pacific Ocean during the industrial era--from the late eighteenth century to the late twentieth century--to highlight how scientific knowledge of the natural world and regimes of agricultural production interacted to change spatial relations of power between distant places. We will explore the history of botany, chemistry, and entomology in the context of European and Euro-American exploration incursions into the Pacific. We will also explore the history of once-exotic but now commonplace things that sustain our existence, from sugar, rice, and palm oil to guano. In short, this course examines how ideas about nature, methods of converting nature into commodities, and nature itself all influence each other. Students will work throughout the semester to gain knowledge about the intersection of agriculture, science, and empire in the Pacific, while also developing and strengthening their ability to conduct historical research and produce original arguments.

Spring 2019