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Environmental Arts and Humanities Graduate Conference
Program and Abstracts
May 1, 2015 Asian/Pacific-‐American Room
Memorial Union 206 Oregon State University
OSU Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative Horning Endowment in the Humanities
Spring Creek Project OSU School of History, Philosophy, and Religion
OSU College of Liberal Arts
Catherine McNeur (Assistant Professor of History, Portland State University)
Eugene Hargrove (Professor of Philosophy, University of North Texas)
Art on display by these graduate students:
Elizabeth Garton (Oregon State University)
Jamie Mosel (Oregon State University)
Abstracts for all graduate student presentations at the end of this program
Morning schedule 8am: Coffee/morning snacks Session 1 (830am-‐945am) Leslie Ryan (Oregon State University, Forestry)
“Performing Agriculture: The ‘Survival Pieces’ of Eco-‐Artists Helen and Newton Harrison” Steven Leone (University of Oregon, History)
“Despair, Defiance, and Deliverance: Nature and Survivor Memory within Germany’s World War II Concentration Camps”
Rachel Rochester (University of Oregon, English) “The Animal, The Subaltern, and a More Inclusive Politics of Agency in The Hungry Tide."
Elizabeth Garton (Oregon State University) “Science Through the Lens of Art”
10am: Coffee break Session 2 (1015am-‐1145am) Barbara Canavan (Oregon State University, History of Science)
“Opening Pandora’s Box at the Roof of the World” M Jackson (University of Oregon, Geography)
“Representing Glaciers in Modern Icelandic Art: A Spatial Shift” Shane Hall (University of Oregon, English)
“Environmental Military Violence in Hector Tobar's The Tattooed Soldier” Sean Munger (University of Oregon, History)
“The Weather Watchers: Amateur Climatologists and Environmental Consciousness, 1810-‐1820”
12pm: Lunch (catered for conference presenters)
Afternoon schedule 1230: Lunchtime address Eugene Hargrove (University of North Texas)
“Environmental Philosophy and the Culture War” Session 3 (130pm-‐245pm) Jamie Mosel (Oregon State University, Art)
“The Problem with ‘Nature’: A Discussion of Dichotomous Perceptions and Expressions of Life and the Earth”
April Anson (University of Oregon, English) “How We Fail: Solar, On The Turtle’s Back and Survivance Ecology in CliFi Form”
Jesse Engebretson (Oregon State University, Forestry) “‘Solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation’: The Wilderness Society’s discursive construction of authentic wilderness experiences”
David-‐Paul B. Hedberg (Portland State University, History) “‘Because that is how white people legitimize conservation’: Wilson Charley’s Leadership and Yakama Resource Conservation on the Postwar Columbia River”
3pm: Coffee break Session 4 (315pm-‐445pm) Joshua McGuffie (Oregon State University, History of Science)
“No Significant Risk: Creating the Norms for Public Irradiation at Hanford” Taylor McHolm (University of Oregon, English)
“‘It’s there. Think about that.’: Warren Cariou's Representational Challenges” Ross Coen (University of Washington, History)
“Fresh from the Can: Salmon, Pure Food Laws, and Perceptions of Nature in the Early 20th-‐Century Pacific Northwest Fishing Industry”
Tim Christion Myers (University of Oregon, Philosophy) “Towards an Existentialist Climate Ethics: The Task of Confronting Climate Anxiety”
5pm: Keynote address Catherine McNeur (Portland State University) “Corrupt Food and Corrupt Politics in Antebellum Manhattan”
Titles and Abstracts of Graduate Student Presentations (alphabetical by presenter) Anson, April (University of Oregon) How We Fail: Solar, On The Turtle’s Back and Survivance Ecology in CliFi Form In a moment marked by consumption without consequence – reliance on seemingly invisible forms of energy and intentionally obscured forms of violence – the climate crisis has elicited calls for Climate Fiction (CliFi) to cultivate an environmentally responsive readership. However, theoretical and formal foundations for conceiving of such a genre have tended to rely on Western epistemological structures, ways of knowing resonant with the consumptive narrative of progress and infinite growth central to scientific racism and US nationalism, and productive of ongoing cultural and environmental devastation. Contrasting Ian McEwan’s CliFi novel Solar with Thomas King’s On The Turtle’s Back, this project reads both novels as offering an important investigation into how a narrative’s regard for failure can work to mobilize or pacify imagination. Building on theorizations of environmentally and politically potent forms, this essay compare Solar’s failures to On The Turtle’s Back for how they suggest a mode of “survivance ecology” that can inform CliFi’s genre considerations. As a lens, survivance ecology makes clear that if climate change is certain to defy our expectations, climate fiction must privilege ethical imagination as well as the possibility of adaptation and survival in the face of such overwhelming and unsettling failure. Locating these novel’s most provocative “failures,” the presentation turns to Greg Johnson’s IPCC Haiku and Warren Cariou’s “Tarhands: A Messy Manifesto” to investigate how survivance ecology may be a useful lens for considerations of genre and form in climate change fiction. Canavan, Barbara (Oregon State University)
Opening Pandora’s Box at the Roof of the World The Qinghai-‐Tibet Plateau, known as the Roof of the World, is at the center of complex
changes that coincide with human exploitation and rapid environmental shifts. The vast Plateau is the one constant among mutable actors in this case study: a new high-‐altitude train that rushes across the remote landscape, an immense saltwater lake, a goose, and a virus. The case study provides a glimpse into remarkable science undertaken at the intersection of diverse disciplines: historical ecology, climate science, high altitude medicine, wildlife biology, remote sensing technology, bioscience, and global health. The purpose of this presentation to is to challenge the audience to consider how the Qinghai case illuminates the cumulative effects and unintended consequences of our most pressing environmental and global health dilemmas.
Christion Myers, Tim (University of Oregon) Towards an Existentialist Climate Ethics: The Task of Confronting Climate Anxiety Climate change cannot be managed by experts and politicians alone. Consequently, climate ethics must take up the challenge of inviting public responsibility on this issue. New sociological research on climate denial by Kari Norgaard, however, suggests that most citizens of industrialized countries are ill-‐prepared to cope with the ethical significance of climate change. I draw upon Martin Heidegger to offer a new reading of climate denial that suggests viable responses to this problem. I argue that the implications of climate change are largely received as an “existential threat” to the extent that they endanger the integrity of everyday existence. In other words, the implications of climate change for everyday life unsettle what phenomenologists call the “lifeworld.” Should basic lifeworld assumptions, which cultures rely on to makes sense of the world and their purposes in it, come under serious question, anxieties surface that most people are profoundly motivated to avoid. Hence, the ethical obligations entailed by climate change are “denied” in the form of protecting lifeworld integrity for the sake of containing anxieties that would otherwise overwhelm people. Finally, I submit that existential approaches to climate denial can empower a confrontation with “climate anxiety” in ways that open up ethical reflection. Coen, Ross (University of Washington) Fresh from the Can: Salmon, Pure Food Laws, and Perceptions of Nature in the Early 20th-‐Century Pacific Northwest Fishing Industry Histories of the early 20th-‐century Pacific Northwest salmon canning industry have shown how technological innovation, low-‐cost immigrant labor, and lax government regulation led to record fish harvests and threatened the health of salmon runs from Oregon to Alaska. Few, however, focus on the salmon itself actually inside the can. This presentation looks beyond the four walls of the cannery and examines how the industry perceived salmon, first as a living creature in the ocean and then as a commercial product whose quality, taste, and appearance on the consumer’s dinner table became a priority. The passage of pure food laws beginning in 1906 presented the canned salmon industry with an opportunity—one it embraced, as opposed to other food manufacturers who resisted government intrusion—to market its product as sanitary, wholesome, natural, and even fresh. In this way the packers downplayed the industrial processes behind the food’s production and instead attempted to instill in their customers a vision of unadulterated nature.
Engebretson, Jesse (Oregon State University) “Solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation”: The Wilderness Society’s discursive construction of authentic wilderness experiences Since 1935, the Wilderness Society has represented the wilderness experience in written and visual text in its periodicals, The Living Wilderness and Wilderness. These periodicals included news about wilderness, editorials from both pro-‐ and anti-‐wilderness stakeholders, images of wild places, and other relevant content for the wilderness community. The genre of place-‐based wilderness narratives was prominently featured, especially when Howard Zahniser was the editor-‐in-‐chief from 1945 until 1964. These narratives consisted of personal stories of wilderness expeditions and drawn and photographic images of wild places. Through these narratives, the Wilderness Society represented particular forms of the human wilderness experience and recreation as authentic. Given the social capital of the organization, these representations became understood as legitimate forms of wilderness recreation in popular culture. Given this, I intend to use a textual analysis approach to investigate the unique and overlapping themes, terms, and discourses that came to dominate place-‐based wilderness narratives in the periodicals during the inter-‐war, post-‐war, and post-‐Wilderness Act (1964) time periods. This will be done to understand how the Wilderness Society discursively constructed authentic and inauthentic schemas of wilderness recreation that influenced the legal language of the Wilderness Act and thus the contemporary management of wilderness areas. Garton, Elizabeth (Oregon State University) Science Through the Lens of Art There is a challenge in finding a way to present information that reaches the general public, specifically for the scientific community it is a daunting problem. Researchers perform experiments and studies but once they culminate their results, traditionally the means of sharing their acquired knowledge is to publish the data in journals. This causes a disconnect with the public at large since the majority of the journals target a specific audience, usually assuming a basic knowledge in the field. The scientific information is relatively inaccessible to the general public, which is a problem given many of the global issues facing society. This is one of the problems that I addressed by creating an art exhibition that presented soil science information in the form of artwork.
Hall, Shane (University of Oregon) "Environmental Military Violence in Hector Tobar's _The Tattooed Soldier_" Environmental literary studies have infrequently and inadequately addressed the links between armed conflict and environmental inequality formation. Military conflict has always incorporated environmental violence (both as violence conducted against non-‐human environmental features and aspects of the environment used as weapons against humans) yet the twentieth and nascent twenty-‐first centuries have seen the proliferation of new forms of environmental military violence which correspond to and participate in the intensification of environmental racism and despoiling of the world’s ecosystems following World War II. I argue that a literature of environmental justice is incomplete without stronger theoretical engagements with militarism’s role in creating and maintaining environmental inequalities. Militaries target environments in order to target human bodies and psyches, and thus war by definition is the business of creating or maintaining inequalities. While the spectacular, explosive violence of war often obscures long-‐lasting effects of military violence or the creation of environmental inequalities, I argue that novelistic depictions of war explore the subterranean psychological and material effects of environmental military violence. I offer here an environmental justice reading of Hector Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier as a means of exploring the ways in which spectacular military violence and attritional violence work in tandem to secure the lasting, deleterious effects of industrialized racism in Guatemala and the United States. Hedberg, David-‐Paul B. (Portland State University) “Because that is how white people legitimize conservation”: Wilson Charley’s Leadership and Yakama Resource Conservation on the Postwar Columbia River While many Native Americans protested construction of The Dalles Dam throughout the 1940s and 1950s, this paper focuses on Wilson Charley, a Mid-‐Columbia fisherman and member of the Yakama Tribal Council. Using new sources located in the James J. James papers at the University of Oregon, I present an untold story that highlights this important twentieth-‐century Indian leader. I argue Charley’s activism was a calculated move to frame tribal resource management as a form of conservation. To do this, he used his friendships and cross-‐cultural partnerships to overcome racial and bureaucratic barriers that confined his tribal leadership. Originating with him and working via a broad coalition of conservationists and preservationists, Charley aimed to stop The Dalles Dam project. More importantly, tactfully embedded this broad conservation campaign, he sought to assert tribal control of Mid-‐Columbia fisheries and archaeological sites. His innovative strategies articulated adaptive tribal resource policies that embraced traditional elements while also incorporating new technologies. After completion of The Dalles dam, Charley continued to play an important leadership role in redefining treaty protections. He was foundational in the development of contemporary tribal resource protection programs we see today. As a Native American leader, he not only commanded an impressive knowledge of federal policy and tribal resources, but also was an important figure in the history of conservation movements in the West.
Jackson, M (University of Oregon) Representing Glaciers in Modern Icelandic Art: A Spatial Shift Glaciers are disappearing in Iceland. Glaciology models predict Icelandic glaciers will lose 25-‐35 percent of present volume over the next fifty years. It is increasingly important to understand how such changes to a landscape are culturally processed. Building from cultural climatology, this paper examines historic trends in artistic glacier representation, emphasizing the spatial characteristics of European and Icelandic landscape artworks by artists including J.M.W. Turner, John Brett, Thomas Fearnley, Þórarinn Þorláksson, Jón Stefánsson, and Ásgrímur Jónsson. In modern art, this paper focuses on three artists engaging with Iceland’s glaciers, Bjargey Ólafsdóttir, Roni Horn, and Ragna Róbertsdóttir, and examines their unique spatial treatment of glaciers. In conclusion, this paper discusses the implications of the spatial shift in representation, analyzing different potential influences and their impact on the dialectic between glaciers and people. Leone, Steven (University of Oregon) “Despair, Defiance, and Deliverance: Nature and Survivor Memory within Germany’s World War II Concentration Camps”. “Despair, Defiance, and Deliverance” explores the ways that natural world affected the lives of prisoners within the Nazi concentration camp system. More specifically, the paper puts forward two interconnected arguments. First, nature mattered to the inmates of concentration camp spaces. Second, the natural world took on three distinct forms in the minds of concentration camp survivors: one, it was a psychological weapon for the Nazis, two, nature was also a mode of resistance for the prisoners, and three, the natural environment instilled a sense of promise and encouragement for the women and men caught up in brutality of Germany’s concentration camps. McGuffie, Joshua (Oregon State University) “No Significant Risk: Creating the Norms for Public Irradiation at Hanford” On the evening of 2 December 1949, scientists at the Hanford Engineer Works intentionally released significant amounts of radioactive iodine and xenon in an event now called the ‘Green Run.’ Radioactive plumes belched out of the stacks of the T plant, soaring aloft over towns and farmland in south-‐central Washington State. These plumes were meant to safely dissipate in the atmosphere, allowing scientists from the Air Force and from Hanford’s Health Instrument Divisions (HID) to trace their behavior. But in the midst of the night, the weather turned foul. Radioiodine coated the landscape, covering forage and cropland around the Engineer Works. It entered the food chain, especially
contaminating regionally produced milk. From a safety standpoint, the release was an unmitigated failure. In order to downplay this failure, the HID scientists argued that the release had been a success because the radiation had been thoroughly monitored. They used narrative, mapping, and data collection to reframe the terrain at and around Hanford as they reported on the release. They described the topography and biota in terms of their ability to handle the radioactive burden. They covered the area’s patchwork of farms and towns with isolines showing contamination. They turned landmarks into data points. Doing so, they made the region a great outdoor laboratory with living subjects in which they asserted the illusions of control and safety. These illusions assuaged the scientists’ concerns about irradiating the land and local populace – who did not learn of the Green Run until the mid-‐1980s. Monitoring allowed the scientists to keep locals in the dark, since they could judge the risk from the Green Run insignificant. This project examines how the release was used to establish norms that allowed well-‐documented radioactive irresponsibility to become standard operating procedure at Hanford for the duration of its plutonium production mission. McHolm, Taylor (University of Oregon) “'All Kinds of Everything’: Warren Cariou’s Multiple Challenges to Legitimacy” Through a use of numerous genres and forms, Warren Cariou’s “Tarhands: A Messy Manifesto” challenges the legitimacy of the tar sands development process by disrupting conventions and sensual perception. Since the processes and effects of petroleum are omnipresent, finding their way into facet of life and every form of representation, Cariou’s deployment of multiple genres in a single text functions as an attempt to draw attention to this ubiquitous imperception and confound it. What’s more, Cariou’s work is also a performance of Métis identity, a category that has historically and continually disrupted singular representations and understandings both in conversations within the community and its interactions with the State. In this paper, I explain these formal disruptions as what Mike Davidson and Debra Gismondi refer to as a “challenge to the legitimacy” of the tar sands process. I end by moving towards the implications of Cariou’s performance of Métis identity, the polysemy of which challenges the State’s legitimacy as an arbiter of native identity. “Tarhands: A Messy Manifesto” challenges and disrupts singular and dominant versions of understanding and representation, ultimately demonstrating the interconnectedness of Indigenous claims, settler-‐colonialism, racial projects, national energy projects and environmental representation.
Mosel, Jamie (Oregon State University) The Problem with “Nature”: A Discussion of Dichotomous Perceptions and Expressions of Life and the Earth The word “nature” is problematic. It is a concept only. An idealization. A misconception. A misleading fantasy. Yet it is ubiquitous. And it is dangerous, because we have been given no place in it, though we are given the word from an early age. “Nature” is defined as “the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.” (Oxford American Dictionary) By using such a word as nature, we very often, and usually unintentionally and subconsciously, draw two worlds: the non-‐human, and the human. In common usage, we consider humans not only to be separate from this thing called “nature”, but when they become tangled up with some part of “nature”, it frequently ceases to be “nature.” On a simple level a hiker is likely to say that here is a corn field, but over there, there is a prairie, there is nature. Worse yet, our presence seems even to pollute this pure construct called “nature,” wherever it may be and whatever it is. It is important, as humans, as environmentalists, as members of a biotic community, to understand the way we perceive the world we are a part of, and how we express our relationship with the earth. Expression takes many forms, language being one such form. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand precisely what we mean when we use such words as “nature”, which are often infused with meaning and background we may not intend, may not realize, may encapsulate and disperse damaging mentalities, and may even undermine our ecological goals. As such, a discussion of the concept of “nature”, and its potentially dangerous undertones, is increasingly necessary. Munger, Sean (University of Oregon) The Weather Watchers: Amateur Climatologists and Environmental Consciousness, 1810-‐1820 In the English-‐speaking world in early 19th century, important beginnings of meteorology lay in the hands of what might be called “weather watchers” such as Thomas Jefferson, George Mackenzie and Luke Howard who kept long-‐term detailed records of weather data. In the decade 1810-‐1820, the weather watchers discovered climate in the course of their search for patterns in weather data from which they hoped to fashion predictive rules of weather behavior. The same decade saw an unusual temporary global climate change, driven largely by a series of volcanic eruptions, resulting in repeated hard winters, cool summers and bizarre weather anomalies. The desire to understand the unusual phenomenon of the “Cold Decade” was a significant motivation for the weather watchers in their search for predictive climate patterns. Although their predictive systems were not very useful in and of themselves, the search for climate patterns helped the science of meteorology take hold in popular consciousness and the wider transatlantic conversation of science and the global environment. In addition, the weather watchers’ pattern-‐searching helped broaden the scope of people’s thinking about weather and climate,
transforming it from a purely local concern to a regional and global system of complex environmental interconnections. Rochester, Rachel (University of Oregon) The Animal, The Subaltern, and a More Inclusive Politics of Agency in The Hungry Tide
Historically, language is more than just a means of communication: it is also a tool of oppression. In the postcolonial context, it is those who appropriate and transform the dominant language who are best able to achieve political and cultural agency, while those unable to communicate in the colonizer’s discourse are pushed to society’s perimeter. Similarly, marginalization has been inflicted on non-‐human animals for their communicative differences from humans. Humans have largely treated animals as complex machines rather than self-‐actualized subjects because of their presumed incapacity for language: if animals are deemed to be unable to “respond” in a two-‐way linguistic exchange, then they cannot participate in a truly ethical relationship, nor can they engage in the complex thought deemed critical for establishing subjectivity, intentionality, and agency. Although scholars working in both animal studies and postcolonial theory have addressed the ways in which disempowered groups have been penalized for their perceived inabilities with language, the intersections between the two fields have been largely overlooked. This project attempts to rectify this oversight through the work of Amitav Ghosh. In The Hungry Tide, Amitav Ghosh juxtaposes these parallel histories to reveal the flawed logic that has underpinned both, illustrating how the lack of a common language is more a tool through which to constitute the “other” than an actual barrier to agency. Throughout the novel, Ghosh examines the ways in which subaltern human and non-‐human agency is denied through the politics of language, and the devastating consequences of the objectification that inevitably follows, including the displacement of critical ecosystemic actors by execution, exile, or diaspora. Ghosh also works to reveal how a reconsideration of agency that does not presuppose language can lead to the development of a model of conservation that might simultaneously attend to issues of both environmental and social justice.
Ryan, Leslie (Oregon State University) Performing Agriculture: The "Survival Pieces" of Eco-‐Artists Helen and Newton Harrison Ecological artists Helen and Newton Harrison, frequently cited as the “pioneers” of the environmental art movement, have engaged large scale ecological projects since 1970 when they determined to do no work that didn’t advantage the biosphere. They explored issues of basic sustainability in an early array of artworks entitled “Survival Pieces.” The series began with “Making Earth” (1970) and expanded to include a portable fish farm (1971) and a portable orchard (1972), among others. The Survival Pieces emerged from Newton’s examination of systems thinking while a participant in the Art & Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1967-‐71. As an ensemble, these artworks critically investigated food systems, food security and the sustainability of our actions. As Wendell Berry has said, food is our most persistent relationship with the environment, and we are participants in agriculture. This presentation examines this early work, and its relevance to ethical land use and contemporary issues of food production.
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