ASLE 2017 Conference Reports

There were many activities on the 2017 ASLE Conference program in addition to concurrent sessions, and a number of interest groups met during the week in Detroit. Descriptions of a few of these, and summary reports we have received so far, are compiled for those who could not attend the conference or these particular events.  Additional reports will be added as they are received.

Articulate Detroit: Visualizing Environments with Augmented Reality is a project that uses mobile technology to create an interactive walking tour of sites on Woodward Avenue. This project was funded by an ASLE Subvention Grant, and resulted in a web/mobile guided tour that anyone can access and use.  On June 24, the developers of this project, Madison Jones and Jacob Greene of the University of Florida, led a session that visited these sites, demonstrating and using their mobile tour.  Check it out at

Recordings of most of the plenary talks given at the conference, which included speakers Laura Dassow Walls, Michael Branch, Tiya Miles, Siobhan Senier, and Kyle Powys Whyte, can be linked to from our Biennial Conference page.


Diversity Caucus Meeting

The meeting was moderated by the new Diversity Co-Officers, Gisela Heffes and Laura Barbas-Rhoden, who submitted this summary:

As new members of the EC at the time of the 2017 conference, we listened to the conversations at the EC meeting at the conference in Detroit and to what we heard from previous Diversity Committee Officers to understand better the position as it is currently imagined by diverse constituencies. Below is a concept map that conveys our understanding of the multiple committees and roles in which either the membership or the EC, or both, would like to see active participation by the Diversity Officer.

There is a desire on the part of members of the EC and of the membership at large at ASLE for the organization and the conference to be, and to be perceived, as inclusive. At the Diversity Caucus meeting that we facilitated, we worked to convey information to those who attended about the way the organization functions, and the roles and committees of the EC, and to solicit input and direction. The input we heard from the membership comprises the next section.

Information and ideas shared by participants in the Diversity Caucus

The Diversity Caucus meeting at the 2017 conference was well attended (40+ participants, some of whom provided e-mails). Below are the ideas and aspirations they shared.

  • Need for regional studies
  • Desire for exchange and sharing of pedagogical materials (i.e., syllabi for a diversity of courses)
  • Desire for a network or archive of films related to diverse topics
  • Desire for a space or platform for debates, in person at the conference and also in virtual/digital spaces
  • Is there a way to build in more time and space for conversation in the conference schedule?
  • In what ways might there be opportunities developed for the professionalization of a diverse graduate student membership?
  • To continue to host the conference in campus that are gender inclusive (especially with regard to restroom access, as Wayne State was)
  • Desire for exploring the possibility of having a non-paper panel, presentation, or conference session
  • Desire to have more opportunities to partnership with local environmental associations in vicinity of conference host
  • Interest in an online resource space available for everyone
  • Desire for more time for discussions after the presentations, including discussion of big questions and debates
  • Interest in having more scholarships/grants
  • Interest in defining or refining the priorities regarding the diversity office and position
  • Desire for the membership to have input on who they would like to have as the plenary speaker(s)
  • Desire that Diversity Caucus participants and officer partner with EC to guarantee the diverse participation on the conference
  • Might there be opportunities for liaisons (interest groups, others) to get to know one another and for membership to identify/meet them?

Creative Caucus Meeting

The ASLE Creative Caucus had a lively meeting during the Detroit conference, facilitated by Janine Debaise and Susan Cohen and attended by 46 people. There was appreciation expressed for the hard work of the Executive Council, especially for the creative panels and activist panels, and for bringing creative writers to the plenaries. Attendees lauded the fact there were many creative presentations integrated with scholarly papers on the panels, but felt more clarity was needed on which presenters were poets, essayists, fiction writers, artists, or musicians. Someone suggested that perhaps the program should include a short description for each panel, or perhaps key words chosen by the presenters, this could help attendees quickly pick out the creative presentations. Many agreed that the conference needs even more hybrid panels that include both the creative and the academic.

Discussion focused on how the Creative Caucus could provide more help for the conference organizers if we had a seat at the Executive Council. We would like to pursue the creation of a liaison position. The idea of sponsoring an off-year Creative Symposium was raised. The caucus was also in favor of sponsoring an off-site reading that could be listed in the program, organized ahead of time with a formal list drawn from Creative Caucus members, which would give participants an opportunity to procure funding from their home institutions. The group agreed to continue communicating primarily via the ASLE Creative Caucus Facebook page.

Graduate Student Working Group Meeting

There were 24 graduate students in attendance, and the meeting was facilitated by ASLE Graduate Student Liaisons Aubrey Streit Krug and April Anson.  Some of the topics discussed included updating the teaching resources on the ASLE website, ideas for website changes, thoughts on Digital Strategies internships, and future conference ideas.

Regarding teaching resources, it was noted that most of the materials are literature focused, and students would like to incorporate more eco-composition resources.  Suggestions to make the resources more useful included: add categories or tags, so that the materials that are available are searchable by topic, theme, approach; add articles that make scientific material more approachable; structure modules of reading. Suggested updates to the web included having a running list of recommended books, and migrating the Facebook page to a group so that members get alerts. On new Digital Strategies internships ASLE is working on creating, students are interested in paid positions. They suggested models like Penn program or Inside Higher Ed’s grad hacker, which rotate the editorial position with the fellows.  Ideas for new story and news features to think about adding included alternative academic positions, creative nonfiction, activism and calls for actions, solidarity, etc., informational interviews with established figures inside and outside of academia, and making conferences and activities of affiliated institutions more visible.

Discussion of future conferences touched on these topics:

  • Interest in increased access outside of discipline and outside US but concerned with decreased attendance
  • The general consensus was that piloting a digital conference as an off-year event is a good idea
  • There is a way to make the conference password protected, to have a certain level of security built-in
  • Interest in increasing digital access in the biennial conference
  • Interest in building more local, regional meetings or interest groups like MLA
  • More workshops, and distribute the times offered throughout the conference
  • Encourage people not to fly and use alternatives such as trains, carpools, etc.
  • More creative writing perspectives should be featured
  • Get representatives from the publishers’ exhibit to give talks re: alt ac positions, publishing positions, etc.

Indigenous Studies Seminar and Interest Group Meeting

The Intersections of Indigenous Studies and Environmental Humanities pre-conference seminar, facilitated by Kyle Bladow and Abigail Perez Aguilera, invited twenty participants to discuss the states of these fields and how they complement one another. There was an enthusiastic exchange, with many providing position papers in advance. These papers covered an array of Indigenous issues around the world and across periods and literary genres; predominant themes included Indigenous epistemologies, temporalities and cycles, land and Indigenous identity, resisting colonial extractivist projects, reinhabiting and restorying place, and nonhuman kinship. There was also keen interest in strategies for working as responsible, engaged scholars to support Indigenous self-determination and decolonization efforts. This seminar, along with the “Indigenous Ecocriticism: Resistance and Recovery” panel, was intended to help launch the Indigenous Ecocriticism Interest Group. At the interest group meeting, around thirty attendees expressed interest in sharing publication opportunities and pedagogical resources, in ensuring a related panel stream at future conferences, and in promoting future conference field trips involving local Indigenous communities.

Ecomedia Studies Interest Group Meeting

The Ecomedia Studies Interest Group meeting, facilitated by Steve Rust and Salma Monani, featured a couple of agenda items and lots of time for open discussion. We had a healthy attendance of approximately 30 people, both newcomers as well as individuals who have been involved in the past.

Agenda item one was discussion regarding the proposal for the ASLE off-year symposium on Ecomedia scheduled for summer 2018. Steve announced the exciting news regarding the proposal that he initiated to generate a 2018 ASLE off-year symposium on Ecomedia Studies.  After several years of discussion the symposium is finally happening with full ASLE support. He explained the process thus far, specially recognizing Sarah Crosby who had offered Ohio State University as a host site and done much of the leg-work single- to suss out the logistics of this locale.  [Others in the planning committee included Salma Monani, Michelle Yates, Andrew Hageman, Christy Tidwell, Bridgette Barclay, Hunter Vaughan, Shannon Davies Mancus and Robin Murray].

He then described the opportunity that arose in when Ken Hiltner from UC-Santa Barbara approached ASLE’s EC regarding a online virtual (“nearly carbon neutral”) off-year symposium.   In consultation with ASLE’s EC, as well as Ken Hiltner and three of his colleagues at UCSB who are ecocritics (Janet Walker, Alenda Chang, and Melody Jue), the planning committee for the Ecomedia symposium unanimously decided on trying out the virtual conference possibility.  A proposal was completed by the planning committee and approved by ASLE prior to the 2017 conference. The online-only event will be held June 14-30, 2018, with UCSB hosting the technical aspects of the conference and ASLE providing registration support. Two of three planned plenary speakers, ecomedia experts Alexa Weik von Mossner and Sean Cubitt, have consented to present.

Steve extended an open invitation to those present to be involved in the planning, including a call for papers committee, a plenary speakers committee, and a vetting and conference building committee.  Since the conference the CFP for the symposium, entitled “A Clockwork Green: Ecomedia in the Anthropocene”, has been completed and is currently circulated across the web. Proposals for virtual presentations are

Agenda item two involved Steve and Salma extending an invitation to the group asking for volunteers to take over the interest group leadership.  Both contextualized this request within the history of the interest group, and their own involvement in leading the group since co-founding it in 2012.  Both noted that while it has been wonderful to help shepherd the presence of Ecomedia Studies into ASLE, they were ready to step down and encourage others to bring new life to the leadership. Christy Tidwell, Shannon Davies-Mancus and Bridgitte Barclay offered their services as the new Co-coordinators.  They have already stepped up to take over the leadership and organization for the off-year symposium along with Ken Hiltner, as well as the volunteer planning committee: Steve Rust, Salma Monani, Sara Crosby, Robin Murray, Andy Hageman, Michelle Yates, Janet Walker, and Alenda Chang.

Virtual Networks: The group discussed the possibility of staying connected virtually between conference meetings.  While a Facebook group (Ecomedia Studies) exists, there was conversation about the possibility of another blog (since the original Ecomedia Studies blog was retired in 2014), Twitter, as well as the possibility of a customized digital interface.  The new coordinators mentioned that they would work on the possibility.

Journal devoted to Ecomedia Studies: Salma shared the good news regarding progress on a journal devoted to Ecomedia Studies, noting that Janet Walker, Adrian Ivakhiv, James Schwoch, Hunter Vaughan were awarded a short term fellowship by the Rachel Carson Center in Munich for the “Development of an International, Transdisciplinary Journal of Media and Environment.”  Adrian, who was present at the meeting, elaborated, suggesting that while the project is still in its infancy, the fellowship is promising and he is keen to see where it goes.

Asian Ecocriticism Interest Group Meeting Report

The group meeting was convened by Chia-ju Chang, Brooklyn College-CUNY, on June 22. Twelve people attended, both established and young scholars from different US institutions and across Asia. Everyone discussed how to increase the visibility of Asian ecocriticism group under ASLE and add more members to it. Some young scholars brought up the idea of creating a website, using social media, and thereby expanding the group’s reach, posting different activities and updating about future events. Some senior scholars talked about other possible venues for presentation and collaboration on special environmental panels and turning them into a special journal issue. Most important, all attendees stressed the importance of collaboration and work actively on different shades of Asian ecocriticism, representing different Asian regions based on their locations and areas of research interests. Finally, the meeting helped create a mass email and initiate conversations about different aspects of Asian ecocriticism.

Religion and Nature Interest Group

ASLE’s Religion and Nature Interest Group was initially convened by Nancy Menning at the Lawrence, Kansas, conference in 2013. Jeremy Elliott convened the group at the 2015 conference in Moscow, Idaho. At the 2017 biennial meeting in Detroit, Michigan, convened again by Nancy Menning, twenty people met to share teaching and research interests. Much of our time together focused on suggesting fruitful readings for exploring relationships between religion and the natural world in the undergraduate classroom. We also highlighted papers being given at the 2017 meetings with a religious component and brainstormed ideas for staying in contact between biennial conferences. Anyone interested in the ongoing activities of the Religion and Nature Interest Group is encouraged to contact Nancy Menning at