Environmental Theory, Fall 2019
The purpose of this course is to work towards creating a framework of theory from which we will approach our final capstone papers/ projects. It builds off our previous work in ENVS 220. We finalize research topics for our capstone projects, acquire a strong foundation of scholarship, and begin to think about the next steps required to complete our capstones in the Spring. All the work I have done this semester is linked here.
The theoretical framework I constructed in ENVS 350 considers whether eco art can navigate and enrich complex discussions surround the officialization of the Anthropocene as a new epoch. Critical discussions about the narratives and stories constructed around the officialization of the Anthropocene have been ongoing for many years; contention over the culpability the Anthropocene implies, along with questions about the social/historical, temporal, and future implications of the Anthropocene direct these discussions. I am looking at theory around eco art, Symbolic action, and the Anthropocene as a tool for considering the place of art within the Anthropocene discourse. The following page outlines all the work I have done this semester to reach this point in my research.
This poster is a summery of my theoretical framework. Creating a visual artifact summarizing my work over the past few months felt like a neat and concise way to end the semester. I presented it at the ENVS final poster celebration on December 11th, 2019. The poster celebration provides and opportunity for students to share their work with the public. I personally find that explaining my topic to people who have no prior knowledge of my topic is a valuable way to feel grounded in my work. My poster invited plenty of questions, engaging in interesting discussions about it with others both challenged and reinforced different directions I am moving in.
Framework Paper and Diagram
This paper is a culmination of all the work I have done this semester to construct my theoretical framework. The poster is essentially a summary of this longer, more detailed piece of writing. In my paper, I was able to delve into the literature of each of my topics: Eco Art, Symbolic Action, and the Anthropocene. I outlined how these three topics weave together to form the theoretical framework for my capstone. The process of getting to this point took me in many different directions with my research. A few weeks before the framework paper was due I decided to change a significant part of my topic and redo a good amount of my research. This was definitely positive learning experience and I was grateful to have the time to change my framework at the last minute. For a look into my in-progress process with this framework click here.
For more information on my final framework click here.
In preparation to construct my final theoretical framework, I built up a solid foundation of literature on the topics that would ultimately inform it. When I began collecting sources, my topics were Eco Art, Symbolic Action, and New Materialism. After further research and deliberation, I decided to switch my topic on New Materialism with The Anthropocene. This required a whole new set of sources for my annotated bibliography. Ultimately, the annotated bibliography prepared me to write my final framework paper and helped me form a literacy around each of my topics. I began compiling sources for my annotated bibliography early in the semester, documented here. See here for another work-in-progress update.
Along with the annotated bibliography, I constructed an actor network or “isms” map in order to visualize the connections I was beginning to uncover in my research. The framework diagram above is a focused and simplified version of it.
Read my annotated bibliography and see my isms map here.
Weekly Update Posts
Each week of the course, we were required to complete an update post, summarizing notable events from the week. Topics included synthesis of work from other classes with ENVS 350, a review of our progress on current projects, and summary of what we covered in class the week before. See all of these posts here.
The class began by unpacking environmental theory. most of our discussion centered about what was unique about practicing theory in Environmental studies. Emphasis was placed on the role of theory in doing interdisciplinary work and how best to use theory in our work.
The events of symposium week were very engaging, and occupied most of my thoughts on ENVS that week. Keynote speaker Sunita Narain, an acclaimed climate activist from Deli, India, covered the vitality of prioritizing equality in discussions about climate change. Her outlook was charged with creativity and ingenuity. I found many connections between her talk and the theory I was considering at the time.
Consideration of the construction and objectivity of science opened up a vibrant discourse about why it may be beneficial to accept facts as truth although truth is often to wavering and complex to definitively pinpoint. Later in the week, we discussed social media and its effects on public discourse, populism, and the science of climate change.
We discussed the place, conception, and use of utopian and dystopian worlds. This discussion ties into a broader theme I am considering in my capstone around worlds the artists create. These worlds often contain traces of dystopian/utopian narratives.
Later in the semester, after I reformulated my theoretical framework, I began to finally find my footing with my work again. I go into the process of deciding to abandon new materialism for the Anthropocene, and what that shift entailed.
Along with update posts, each week we completed an “isms critique” post. These posts were a space to critique the explanation of of “isms”, or broad, expansive terms picked from Companion to Environmental Studies(Proctor et. al). I picked terms to analyze that were relevant in some way to my theory research. Practicing critique of scholars work was a valuable exercise in critical thought. To check out all of these posts, click here.
Design, Emotion, and Sustainability was one of the first “isms” I critiqued. In his passage in Companion to Environmental Studies, Jonathan Chapman argues that design has the potential to unravel some of the difficulties in creating sustainable production of goods(Proctor et. al). I am working at the intersection of art and ENVS, so this passage was particularly interesting for me to analyze.
Debate around the construction of wilderness is a classic and important discussion in environmental studies. It was interesting to delve into this critique, as I found it to be quite thorough. Critiquing an already flushed-out critique was a valuable challenge.
Greta Guard covers the rise and reach of ecofeminism in her chapter in Companion to Environmental Studies (Proctor et. al.) Critiquing Ecofeminism was interesting, as there were aspects of it I definitely agreed with, but I found many holes within the author’s analysis.
Castree, Noel, Mike Hulme, and James D. Proctor. 2018. Companion to Environmental Studies. London ; New York: Routledge.