Beyond Despair: Theory and Practice in Environmental Humanities

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 Wednesday–Friday, April 3–5, 2019

 National Humanities Center, 7 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC

This unique three-day summit of scholars and experts from across the country features a dynamic intersection between discussion, presentations, and exhibitions, grounded in practical site excursions. The summit is being convened by Robert D. Newman, founder of the first Environmental Humanities graduate program in the U.S., and current director of the National Humanities Center. Confirmed presenters include scholars, teachers, students, scientists, community leaders, activists, and artists in an effort to build bridges between the global and the local. The list of participants is impressive and speaks to the timeliness and importance of this discussion.

About the Summit

The summit and supporting activities are intended to reimagine next steps for the important discipline of Environmental Humanities, while at the same time challenging the limitations that have emerged to date.

Subhankar Banerjee

This discipline brings environmental studies and issues normally located in the sciences or public policy into humanities contexts that add depth and focus. Technological solutions and policy initiatives have limited success, and possible negative consequences, unless one understands the ethical implications and nuanced history and culture of the places where they are to be implemented.

Despite its contributions to environmentalism, Environmental Humanities frequently has focused on theory independent of application and in terms that are debilitating, such as “catastrophe,” “apocalypse,” “end of history,” “mourning,” “loss.” Such terminology, while cautionary, is potentially demotivating, especially to students. Also, necessary conversations between scientists and humanists have not been well integrated into the field, and a tension persists between activists and scholars.

By bringing Environmental Humanities experts into discussion with other scholars, teachers, activists, artists and others, Beyond Despair intends to foster cooperation between these various groups, impact the field of environmental humanities, and launch dialogue that has the potential to change how environmental issues are taught in classrooms across the country.