Universiteit Leiden

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LUCAS “Modern and Contemporary Studies” Research Cluster 3rd annual conference 'Environment as Lens: Rethinking Humanities Research through the Increasing Ubiquity of Environmental Questions'

Friday 24 February 2023
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden
Ghostly figures in red robes symbolizing the common blood we share with all species: scene from the 'Red Rebel Brigade' performance from Bristol’s Invisible Circus as part of an Extinction Rebellion demonstration, London 2019

Organizers: Sara Polak & Maria Boletsi

Conference theme

Although the environmental emergency has been central in public and scholarly debates for decades, in recent years the climate movement has grown exponentially in urgency and scope on a global scale. The challenges that humanity and the planet are facing due to human intervention, extractivism, and the drive for economic growth in the Anthropocene have become so critical, that the climate crisis is increasingly projected not as an isolated challenge but as the crisis of our time: a crisis that encompasses, or intersects with, other declared crises and challenges, including global poverty, social inequalities, (climate) migration, securitization, neofascism, violence, and discriminatory practices. The intersectionality of discourses of culture, politics, religion, migration, race, and social justice with environmental questions invites us to rethink and recalibrate our research in the humanities regardless of whether we work on historical or contemporary contexts, or on literature, art, film or other media. As literary scholar Jenny Bavidge put it, our scholarly and “readerly mindsets” are shifting, as “we’re entering a phase where a sense of ecological and climate crisis haunts stories which are not consciously environmental narratives at all” (2019).

In the third annual conference of the LUCAS “Modern and Contemporary” research cluster, we invite cluster members to reflect on the various and at times unexpected ways in which our research can relate to, address, or be reframed through, the climate emergency. This is emphatically not only an invitation to researchers in ecocriticism or environmental humanities, but to all cluster members to ponder the implications of current environmental challenges for our work.

Questions we want to ask include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • How is the ubiquity of environmental challenges today affecting our research (beyond topics in environmental humanities)? How do we rethink the questions that drive our work through the lens of the environmental crisis?
  • How can we look back at literature and cultural production of the past through the lens of contemporary environmental questions?
  • As unpredictable climate disasters take place more and more often and apocalyptic scenarios of environmental destruction enter the sphere of the probable, what stories do we tell, what ethical positions can we take, and how do we respond as scholars and teachers to such grim prospects?
  • Which artistic or literary modes can help us make sense of, face, or address the (lack of) future? How do we practice future-thinking in our respective disciplines and research?

Please register by sending an email to mc-lucas@hum.leidenuniv.nl


10:00-10:15     Welcome & coffee

10:15-11:15     Plenary Session: brief introductions and reflections on the conference theme by all participants

11:15-11:30     Coffee-tea break

11:30-12:45     Panel 1: Environmental questions in research

  • Minna Valjakka, “Disappearing Urban Ecologies: Environmental Art in Jakarta
  • Angel Perazzetta, “What to do with Trash in Victorian Britain”
  • Maria Boletsi, “Weird Ecologies: Global Weirding and Future Imagination”

12:45-13:45     Lunch break

13:45-15:00     Panel 2: Environmental questions in teaching – a panel discussion

  • Frans-Willem Korsten, “Activism in class: ecological justice in a The Hague minor – with students from three universities and a multidisciplinary background”
  • Panel discussion with Laura Bertens, Frans-Willem Korsten and Jessie Morgan-Owens.

15:00-15:30     Conclusions

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