We are delighted to announce the themes and participants in our 2022 ASLE Spotlight series.
Each of our four ASLE Spotlight episodes will feature moderated conversations with ASLE members who have produced new critical and creative work in the environmental humanities. Episodes follow a theme, and highlight publicly engaged scholarship. They will be recorded for later viewing.
Registration is required for the live episodes, and space is limited. Priority will be given to ASLE members, but all are welcome to sign up and will be accommodated if space is available; a waitlist will be kept as needed. Links to registration for each episode, and a list of the creators/authors featured, is below. More details on the guests will be added soon!
EPISODE 1: PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND PERFORMANCE
Friday, March 18, 2022
1 – 2pm Eastern Time
Co-Hosts: Brandon Galm and Joshua Calhoun
Janisse Ray, Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonder in a World Beyond Humans (Use code ASLE25 valid now through 4/15/22 for a 25% discount)
Looking to honor life on earth, Janisse Ray has repeatedly immersed herself in wildness. From overwintering with butterflies in Mexico to counting birds in Belize, her stories capture the joys of heart-pounding amazement, reflect on the sights of explorers like Bartram and Sacagawea, and document experiences rare in an age of increasingly virtual, urban life. WILD SPECTACLE explores the wild earth and invites us to question its known and unknown beauties and curiosities.
Janisse Ray is a bestselling writer whose subject is often nature. Ray has won a Pushcart, New York Times Notable, and American Book Award. Her previous books include Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, and the poetry book Red Lanterns.
Odile Cisneros, ecopoesia.com
ecopoesia.com is a trilingual (Spanish, Portuguese, English) online resource mapping the relationships between contemporary Latin American poetry and the environment. A research and teaching tool for academics and a collection of materials for the general public, ecopoesia.com provides criticism, bibliographies, and a selection of poems in the original and in translation. Users may explore specific environmental issues/topics in a multimedia platform also featuring digital maps, images, and other resources.
Odile Cisneros received a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures from New York University. She is associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta.
Petra Kuppers, Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters (40% discount code MN88670 until April 1) Open Access Version
In Eco Soma, Petra Kuppers asks readers to be alert to their own embodied responses to art practice and to pay attention to themselves as active participants in a shared sociocultural world. Reading contemporary performance encounters and artful engagements, this book models a disability culture sensitivity to living in a shared world, oriented toward more socially just futures.
Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist, a writer, a community performance artist, and the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor in Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan. She uses ecosomatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. www.petrakuppers.com
LENS.cast is a podcast produced by UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies. It tells stories of environmental and multispecies justice in Los Angeles and beyond. In 2021, LENS partnered with the Labyrinth Project, a collaborative urban anthropological inquiry into nature in Los Angeles, to produce a series of episodes based on the Labyrinth team’s fieldwork in LA’s more-than-human ecologies. Created by a team of faculty and graduate and undergraduate students, these episodes explore rats and mountain lions, cats and the people who care for them (and don’t), coyote fascism, and other pathways in ‘the maze of nature in LA.’
Spencer Robins is a PhD candidate in English at UCLA, where he studies collective narratives of climate politics. He also works as a writer and researcher on projects with the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS).
EPISODE 2: Entangled Geographies
Friday, April 22, 2022
2 – 3pm Eastern Time
Co-Hosts: Matt Henry and Jennifer Ladino
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion
Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion examines the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world and considers how literature from the 1830s to the 1930s reckoned with a new vision of extraction-based life. The threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form as part of the discursive and imaginative process by which Britain came to understand itself as an empire thoroughly dependent on extraction: an extraction-based industrial society irretrievably bound up with finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, with no viable alternative capable of preserving existing social relations.
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis, where she teaches 19th and early-20th century literature as well as courses in the environmental humanities. Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion (Princeton UP, 2021) is her third book.
From a lake sturgeon spawning site up to global scales, The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes places readers alongside fish and fishers, scuba divers and scientists, toxic pollutants and threatened communities, oil pipelines and invasive species, Indigenous peoples and federal agencies. Lyrical, compassionate, the book grapples with the legacies and alternative futures shaped by a place’s immense natural wealth.
Lynne Heasley is an environmental historian at Western Michigan University. Through literary and academic hybrids, she explores our kaleidoscopic relationships with water and aquatic life.
Amanda M. Smith, Mapping the Amazon: Literary Geography after the Rubber Boom
Since the end of the Amazon rubber boom in the 1920s, the river basin has inspired a number of novels about the violence that undergirds extractive industries in the region, and those novels indict faulty maps for their role in the continuous commodification of the forest. Mapping the Amazon examines how Latin American intellectuals from Amazonian countries turned to fiction to chart Amazonia otherwise. Smith considers the stakes of literary cartographies by analyzing their disruptive potential alongside various modernizing project that have carved Amazonia into cultural and economic spaces: border commissions, extractive infrastructure, school geography manuals, Indigenous educations programs, and touristic propaganda. Even the critiques of the “novel maps” studied, however, have blind spots, and Mapping the Amazon considers the real political and ecological consequences of such unintentional omissions today.
Amanda M. Smith is Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she specializes in 20th- and 21st-century Latin American literatures and cultures through an environmental lens.
Katarzyna Beilin, Maya Land: Listening to the Bees
Maya Land: Listening to the Bees tells the story of the conflict that erupted between Maya beekeepers and the Mexican government in 2011, fomented by the planting of genetically modified soy in the Yucatan peninsula. The film focuses on the role that Mayas’ pre-colonial and ongoing relationship with the bees and the bees themselves had in this conflict and how in the end the struggle has transformed thinking about development in the region.
The Mayas have linked the growing of GM soy to deforestation, water contamination, and damage to human and bee health. The conflict was triggered by the European Union’s rejection of Mexican honey exports due to unacceptable levels of GM pollen in 2011. This caused significant economic losses for the beekeepers of Yucatan—most of whom are of Maya ethnicity. The Maya appealed to the state authorities that GM soy be forbidden on basis of their “right to culture,” and after several years of struggle, the permission was revoked. The film contains in-depth interviews that explore the complexities found within this conflict. The Mayas are concerned not only over Apis mellifera bees that produce honey for export but also the sacred Melipona stingless bees, dependent on the forests cut under the GM-soy, as well as their milpas, the subsistence form of polyculture grown in the forest. Maya people are also worried about the toxic flow of pesticides and the sewage from the fields that are seeping into the underground water basin, threatening their health, and contaminating their sacred cenotes. Overall, the Mayas see industrial agriculture as a continuation of centuries of colonization. They realize that unless they mobilize their cultural knowledge and react to these threats, their livelihood, heritage, and memory will become collateral damage.
Kata Beilin is a Professor at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and a Faculty Director of LACIS at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her current book and film projects are focused on a revival of Maya culture in Yucatan, Mexico, that is inspired by the Maya relations with sacred species and ecosystems: maize, Melipona bees and cenotes.
EPISODE 3: Beyond Human
Friday, May 20, 2022
1 – 2pm Eastern Time
Co-Hosts: Gisela Heffes and George Handley
Mandy-Suzanne Wong, Listen, we all bleed.
In the literary essay collection Listen, we all bleed, radical artists from around the world use recordings of nonhuman voices to plead for an end to violence against nonhuman animals. The essays, novelistic and acutely personal, listen to fishes, whales, coyotes, elephants, chickens, and more. Central to this work is the importance of listening—just listening—as a creative effort that’s also an activist act. An EcoLit Best Environmental Book of 2021, an SPD nonfiction bestseller, and a Pen/Galbraith and Foreword INDIES nominee; Listen, we all bleed includes reflections on the work of Kathryn Eddy, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, Robbie Judkins, mOwson&M0wson, Dave Phillips, Colleen Plumb, Quiet Ensemble, Hiroki Sasajima, Andrew Stevenson, Jana Winderen, and Eisuke Yanagisawa.
Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s first novel, Drafts of a Suicide Note (Regal House), was a Permafrost Book Prize, Foreword INDIES, and International Book Award finalist. 2022 will see the second edition of her award-winning fiction chapbook Awabi (Digging Press) and 2023 the release of her novel The Box (Graywolf Press).
Megan Kaminski, Prairie Divination
An oracle deck and book of essays, Prairie Divination turns to the plants, animals, and geological features of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem as a source for knowledge and inspiration as to how to live in the world (and to re-align thinking towards kinship and sustainability). How might thinking with plants and animals guide us in navigating an uncertain present–and help to imagine futures? Filled with information for each corresponding card, the illustrated essays offers personal guidance and affirmations based on the specific lessons that each plant, animal, and element can teach us.
“Prairie Divination casts the diviner into the vibrant ecosystem of the Kansas tallgrass. We meet the monarch, the box turtle, the kestrel, the coreopsis among many other intelligent, energetic beings. Each card is an “opening for encounter,” an invitation to commune, a concentrated channel that weaves us into biotic interdependence. Kaminski and Wheeler offer us an oracle deck that helps us reattune our attention toward embodied acts of kinship, conservation, and collective care. A visually stunning and reaching collaboration.” –Danielle Vogel
Megan Kaminski is a poet and essayist—and the author of three books of poetry, Gentlewomen (Noemi Press, 2020), Deep City, and Desiring Map. An Associate Professor in English at the University of Kansas, she specializes in poetry and poetics, plant studies, queer ecology, somatics, eco-arts practices, and the environmental humanities. Her work is informed by interdisciplinary research in social welfare, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, as well as previous work in the healing arts and at non-profit environmental organizations.
Estela González, ARRIBADA
Mariana Sánchez Celis has traveled the world as a pianist trained at the Juilliard School of Music. But when her mother has a stroke and her beloved uncle suddenly disappears, Mariana must put her life on hold to return to her home in Ayotlan, Mexico.
There, she discovers her town is no longer the place she remembers. Ayotlan’s beaches, sea turtle colonies, and historic center are decimated under decades of neglect and abuse. What part did her late father have in this? And could it be related to her uncle’s disappearance?
In Arribada “North Americans who travel to Mexico to enjoy its beaches and nightlife may be unaware of the destructive histories and effects of the resorts they enjoy. This novel will open their eyes.” –AMY HOFFMAN, author of The Off Season and Lies About My Family
“Arribada is a novel about how even the most painful truths can bring power and freedom.”–EILEEN GONZALEZ, Foreword Reviews
Binational writer Estela González writes in English and Spanish about race, class, gender, and environmental justice. She teaches Latin American literature at Middlebury College. Arribada was a finalist for the Feminist Press’s Louise Meriwether Award.
Avian Illuminations tells about the many roles of birds in human society, including omens, food, messengers, deities, pets, muses, timekeepers, custodians, hunting companions, environmental indicators, decorative motifs, and, most importantly, embodiments of our aspirations. It narrates the history of human relationships over the centuries with crows, owls, parrots, falcons, eagles, wrens, nightingales, chickens, turkeys, hummingbirds, and many other birds. It describes in detail how the nesting behavior of birds has provided models for human romance and domestic life, while their ability to fly has inspired millennia of inventors. Finally, the book concludes that the interconnections between birds and human beings are so manifold that a world without birds would effectively mean an end to human culture, even if we continued to pass on some lonely strands of our DNA.
Boria Sax is the author of many books on animals in human culture. He teaches in the graduate English program at Mercy College and at Sing Sing prison.
EPISODE 4: Nature and Memory
Friday, June 10, 2022
1 – 2pm Eastern Time
Co-Hosts: Suzanne Roberts and Ryan Hediger
Kazim Ali’s memoir of growing up on unceded First Nations land in Northern Manitoba reflects on responsibility, memory, immigration, and environmental justice. The child of South Asian migrants, Kazim Ali was born in London, lived as a child in the cities and small towns of Manitoba, and made a life in the United States. As a man passing through disparate homes, he has never felt he belonged to a place. And yet, one day, the celebrated poet and essayist finds himself thinking of the boreal forests and lush waterways of Jenpeg, a community thrown up around the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Nelson River, where he once lived for several years as a child. Does the town still exist, he wonders? Is the dam still operational?
When Ali goes searching, however, he finds not news of Jenpeg, but of the local Pimicikamak community. Facing environmental destruction and broken promises from the Canadian government, they have evicted Manitoba’s electric utility from the dam on Cross Lake. In a place where water is an integral part of social and cultural life, the community demands accountability for the harm that the utility has caused.
Kazim Ali is the author of Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water, as well as several volumes of poetry, novels, essay collections, and cross-genre texts. His collections of poetry include Sky Ward, winner of the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry
Sladja Blazan, Haunted Nature: Entanglements of the Human and the Nonhuman
This volume is a study of human entanglements with Nature as seen through the mode of haunting. As an interruption of the present by the past, haunting can express contemporary anxieties concerning our involvement in the transformation of natural environments and their ecosystems, and our complicity in their collapse. It can also express a much-needed sense of continuity and relationality. The complexity of the question—who and what gets to be called human with respect to the nonhuman—is reflected in the collected chapters, which, in their analysis of cinematic and literary representations of sentient Nature within the traditional gothic trope of haunting, bring together history, race, postcolonialism, and feminism with ecocriticism and media studies.
Sladja Blazan is a writer and lecturer at Bard College Berlin. Her areas of research include speculative fiction, critical posthumanism, critical refugee studies, and migration.
West Side Rising is the first book focused squarely on San Antonio’s enduring relationship to floods, which have had severe consequences for its communities of color in particular. Examining environmental, social, and political histories, Char Miller demonstrates that disasters can expose systems of racism, injustice, and erasure and, over time, can impel activists to dismantle these inequities. He draws clear lines between the environmental injustices embedded in San Antonio’s long history and the emergence of grassroots organizations that combated the devastating impact floods could have on the West Side.
Char Miller is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College. West Side Rising was awarded two book awards from the Texas State Historical Association. Forthcoming is Natural Consequences: Intimate Essays for a Planet in Peril (Chin Music Press, 2022).
Susan Ballard, Art and Nature in the Anthropocene: Planetary Aesthetics
Since the 1960s contemporary artists have engaged with histories of nature, geology, and extinction within the context of the changing planet. Art and Nature in the Anthropocene explores how these artists have challenged fixed categories of animal, mineral, and vegetable—turning to multispecies relations that suggest the emergence of a planetary aesthetics, and presenting a new vision of what it means to live within the Anthropocene.
Susan Ballard is an Associate Professor of Art History at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. She recently curated the exhibition Listening Stones Jumping Rocks at Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery.