The future of the global environment is the human and social problem par excellence. However, recent debates about sustainability, both within the academy and among the wider public, have been dominated by discourses derived from the natural sciences and technology and complicated by socio-political research on the intellectual risks involved in these epochal issues. So what kind of interdisciplinary alliances might be possible and desirable within the humanities so as to raise the discipline to the challenges of social and environmental sustainability?
Responses from the Humanities
May 17 & 18, 2011
It is from this basic question that the conference, ‘Sustaining Environments’ ,was initiated with the aim of drawing the responses of scholars from a variety of disciplines within the Humanities in Utrecht and Harvard, and addressing the specific and original contribution of the humanities to urgent environmental debates of our time.
For is it really the case that that the Humanities have been slow to respond to the great social changes of our age? What is the perspective of the Humanities on the kind of innovative thinking that is required by environmental issues? And how might a culture of ‘mutual respect’ be developed across all the disciplines in relation to sustainability? The conference assumes that the different scientific disciplines within the Humanities can be assessed in terms of their relevance for the ‘human dimension’; but how might a definition of the human dimension be developed which specifically relates to sustainability issues mentioned above? Simply put, what is ‘Human’ about the Humanities now?
Initiated by the Utrecht Centre for Earth and Sustainability, this conference also launches the collaboration between The Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University and the Humanities Center at Harvard University in an effort to develop new areas of enquiry that focus on the intersection of the humanities with ecological issues, including environmental and social sustainability.
Detailed Programme May 17, 2011
Detailed Programme May 18, 2011
About the Speakers
Joyce E. Chaplin is James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. Professor Chaplin has taught at five different universities on two continents and an island, and in a maritime studies program on the Atlantic Ocean. She is the author of various books amongst which: The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Annibel Jenkins Prize of American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Presently, she is working on a 500-year history of around-the-world travel, from Magellan the Iberian explorer to Magellan the GPS.
D. N. Rodowick is currently William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor and Chair of Visual and Environmental Studies, Interim Director, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, and Director of Graduate Studies for Film and Visual Studies. Rodowick is the author of numerous essays as well as five books. Of which the most recent is: The Virtual Life of Film (Harvard University Press, 2007). D. N. Rodowick's essay, "An Elegy for Theory," received the Katherine Singer Kovacs Essay Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in 2009. In spring 2010, he will be a Fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar, Germany.
Kate Soper is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy attached to the Institute for the Study of European Transformations at London Metropolitan University, and a Visiting Professor at Brighton University. She has published widely on environmental philosophy, aesthetics of nature, theory of needs and consumption, and cultural theory. Her more recent writings include What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the Non-Human (Blackwell, 1995) and (with Martin Ryle) To Relish the Sublime ? Culture and Self-realisation in postmodern times (Verso, 2002). She is co-editor of Citizenship and Consumption (Palgrave, 2008) and The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently (Palgrave, 2009).
Rosi Braidotti is Distinguished Professor at Utrecht University and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht since 2007. Her research focuses on the work of Gilles Deleuze and Luce Irigaray. Her books include, Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics and Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. Currently she is working on the concept of the posthuman and the notion of ‘life’. She also serves as an advisor to the journals: Signs, Differences and Theory, Culture & Society.
Klaas van Egmond is currently Faculty Professor on Geosciences at Utrecht University. He graduated from Wageningen University in 1972 in Food Technology and started his career with research on air pollution at RIVM (National Institute for Health and Environment). Between 1989 and 2004 Klaas van Egmond was Director Environment at RIVM. From 2004 to 2008, he has been Director of the Netherlands National Environmental Assessment Agency. As director of RIVM and MNP he was Advisor to the Dutch Cabinet of Ministers and members of parliament and has been responsible for many studies on all aspects of environment and sustainability, including environmental outlooks and studies on climate and global change. In recent years, he has extended his work on sustainability from the natural sciences aspects to the cultural dimensions as well.
Maarten Prak has been Professor of Social and Economic History at Utrecht University since 1992. He also teaches at its English-language University College, and was a visiting professor at the University of Exeter (UK) in 1996 and 2002. He has published widely on the political, social and economic history of the Netherlands and Europe during the early modern period.
David Pascoe is Chair of English Literature and Culture at Utrecht University. His research concerns the relations between writing, culture and technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but he maintains cognate interests in early modern drama, film, art history, and opera. Among the books he published in recent years are Aircraft (2003), a cultural history of the art and design of the flying machine, and Airspaces (2001), an interdisciplinary account of the aesthetic of the airport, and critical study of the film-maker Peter Greenaway (1997). He is currently completing Black Boxes, an investigation of technology, paranoia, and the occult in post-Enlightenment culture.
Frank Kessler is Professor of Media History at the Utrecht University. For the academic year 1999/2000 he received a grant from the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) [German Academic Exchange Service] for a visiting professorship in European Media Studies at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Professor Kessler is co-founder and member of the editorial board of both montage/av. Zeitschrift für Theorie und Geschichte der audiovisuellen Kommunikation [montage/av. Journal for Theory and History of Audiovisual Communication] and KINtop. Jahrbuch zur Erforschung des frühen Films [KINtop. Annual of Early Film Research]. From 2003 to 2007, Professor Kessler was the president of DOMITOR, an international association to promote the study of early cinema. In 2009 Kessler was a Research Fellow at the International Reasearh Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM) Weimar.
Bas van Bavel is professor of Economic and Social History of the Middle Ages at Utrecht University. Next to various editorships and memberships of international committees, he acts as the co-ordinator of the University focus area “Origins and Impacts of Institutions”, established by Utrecht University. His research activities focus on reconstructing, analyzing, and explaining economic growth and social change in pre-industrial Europe, emphasizing long-term transitions and regional diversity, and using comparative analysis – both over time and across regions – as the main tool. His papers are published in journals like the Economic History Review and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. In the last decade, Past & Present – perhaps the most reputed journal in the field of history, has accepted three of his papers. Last year, Oxford University Press published his latest monograph, "Manors and Markets. Economy and Society in the Low Countries, 500-1600".
Wiljan v.d. Akker is distinguished professor for Modern Dutch Literature and the Dean of Humanities at Utrecht University. In 1986, he completed his studies at Utrecht University with a dissertation on the Dutch poet Martinus Nijhoff. He was appointed as full professor of Modern Dutch Literature at Utrecht University in 1987. From 1994 till 2003, Professor Wiljan v.d. Akker was the director of the Research Institute for History and Culture (OGC) and he was the director of institutes at the Royal Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam from 2003-2006. In the meantime he chaired the Board of Humanities at NWO, the National Research Organisation and was a member of the Standing Committee for the Humanities at the ESF. During his career he taught also in Berlin, Paris and Berkeley. His special field is modernist poetry in an international context.