Changing Our Story: Shifting Identities, Altering Environments

Professor: Jody Cohen and Anne Dalke
Institution: Bryn Mawr College
Course Number: First-Semester Writing Seminar

“There is no distant place anymore …. gone [is] … the very notion of objectivity … totally subverted by the presence of humans in the phenomena to be described…The many important nuances between facts, news, stories, alarms, warnings, norms, and duties are all mixed up …. those new emotions with which the Earth is now agitated …. through the highly complex workings of many enmeshed living organisms .… Gaia, a very ticklish sort of goddess … now become an agent of history … of our common geostory. The problem for all of us … how do we tell such a story?” (Bruno Latour, “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,” Winter, 2014)

Grounding ourselves in the domains of identity matters and ecological studies, we ask how different dimensions of human identity (such as race, class, gender, sexuality and religion) affect our ability to act in the social and natural worlds; simultaneously, we look at how these spaces shape and re-shape our identities and actions, individually and collectively. Our cross-disciplinary approach re-examines personal experiences through the differing orientations of the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Seeking fresh understandings, we revisit well-known examples of children’s literature, alongside Eli Clare’s memoir, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation; Elizabeth Kolbert’s “unnatural history,” The Sixth Extinction; and Ruth Ozeki’s novel, All Over Creation, as well as essays by-and-about community activists and educators Teju Cole, Paulo Freire, Van Jones, and Eve Tuck.

Full syllabus, class notes and on-line conversation: