From 17 May 2011 to 18 May 2011

Symposium & Congres

Harvard and Utrecht University lustrum conference ‘Sustaining Environments: Responses from the Humanities’

Utrecht University and Harvard University are turning 375 in 2011 and will be celebrating their birthday under a jointly hosted conference by the Centres for Humanities at Harvard and Utrecht. The conference ‘Sustaining Environments: Responses from the Humanities’ on 17 and 18 May will focus on the question: what can the Humanities contribute to the urgent debates of our time on social and environmental sustainability?

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?

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.

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 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?


The two-day programme features speakers of both Harvard and Utrecht University, including Joyce E. Chaplin, Rosi Braidotti, Klaas van Egmond, Bas van Bavel, and Wiljan van den Akker.

For more information on the speakers and a detailed programme, visit the Centre for the Humanities website.


The conference is free of charge, but registration is necessary. Send an email to, mentioning ‘Sustaining Environments’ in the subject line. Please note that the maximum number of participants for the programme on 17 May is 50.

Collaboration Harvard and Utrecht University

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. Both centres will jointly make an effort to develop new areas of enquiry that focus on the intersection of the humanities with ecological issues, including environmental and social sustainability. 

Startdatum en tijd: 17/5/2011 00:00
Einddatum en tijd: 18/5/2011 00:00
Locatie: Academiegebouw - Domplein 29, Utrecht

Start date and time
17 May 2011
End date and time
18 May 2011