News & Events

Upcoming & Recent Events

Queer and Trans* Ecologies symposium 

Mar. 23-25, 2023

Flyer for the QTE symposium

Save the date: On March 23-25, 2023, the Queer and Trans* Ecologies (QTE) Interdiscplinary Initiative will be holding a Queer and Trans* Ecologies symposium at the University of Minnesota, co-sponsored by EHI. 

In addition to usual paper presentations and roundtables, there will be workshops (fermentation, screen printing, meditation), art exhibits, trips to learn about environmental justice efforts in the Twin Cities, and a costume dance party. Along with Corinne Teed, Jennifer Row, Erin Durban, and Kale Fajardo at UMN, confirmed participants include Sandor Katz (with Dana Thomson at NATIFS), Macarena Gomez-Barris, the Queer Ecology Hanky Project artists, Eli Clare, Abraham Weil, Michelle Murphy, Juno Parreñas, Patricia Kashian, Carly Thomsen, Anahi Russo-Garrido, and Eden Kincaid. Updated information will be posted on their website.

Erica Hannickel on Orchid Muse: The History of an Obsession in Fifteen Flowers

Mar. 17, 2023

Headshot of Erica Hannickel
Cover image of Orchid Muse, white text on orange background with title name

Join the Environmental Humanities Initiative on Friday, March 17, from 1:30-3 pm in Pillsbury 412 for a talk by environmental historian Erica Hannickel (Northland College) on her new book, Orchid Muse: The History of an Obsession in Fifteen Flowers (W.W. Norton, 2022). One of Literary Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Orchid Muse tells the global story of “orchidomania,” transporting readers from the glories of the palace gardens of Chinese Empress Cixi to a seedy dime museum in Gilded Age New York’s Tenderloin, from hazardous jungles to the greenhouses and bookshelves of Victorian collectors. Hannickel gathers these bold tales of the orchid-smitten throughout history, while providing tips on cultivating the extraordinary flowers she features. Join us for a lively discussion of Hannickel’s book, the place of orchids in the environmental humanities, and the writing of popular nonfiction. Co-sponsored by the Department of English.

Thanks to Prof. Hannickel and W.W. Norton, we are happy to provide free copies of Orchid Muse to the first five EHI-affiliated faculty members and graduate students to RSVP for the event. To reserve your copy, please contact us at [email protected]. Books will only be available at the event on March 17; any unclaimed copies will be distributed to other attendees.

Cate Bruns and Kathleen Ibe: Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities

Feb. 17, 2023

Join us for the latest event in our Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities seminar series, featuring the 2022-23 EHI Graduate Fellowship Recipients! We will be meeting on Zoom, on Friday, February 17, from 1:30-3 pm. 

Zoom link
Meeting ID: 984 1292 1681
Passcode: skX6uH

Headshot of Cate Bruns

Catherine J. Bruns, PhD candidate in Communication Studies, will be speaking on “Pressing for Answers: Reflections on Wine and Climate Adaptation Research in Andalucía, Spain.” 

The southern region of Andalucía, Spain has supported a thriving wine industry for centuries. Unfortunately, climate change is threatening the area’s water resources, forcing winemakers to choose between adapting to survive or maintaining tradition until it becomes unviable. Although climate policies and projections aim to encourage agricultural adaptation, affecting change in winemaking is as much about understanding how humans perceive climate expertise as it is about presenting new growing strategies. This presentation will share ongoing efforts to craft a dissertation that aims to examine how climate adaptation is debated, represented, and understood within the Andalusian wine community. Specifically, this presentation will reveal preliminary findings from a pilot study, discuss how these results have informed an ongoing content analysis, and outline next steps for the future of this research. In doing so, this presentation will begin to unpack how climate knowledge and expertise is defined in the Andalusian wine community.

Headshot of Kathleen Ibe

Kathleen Ibe, PhD candidate in Germanic Studies, will be speaking on “Narrating Earth: An Ecofeminist Approach to Non-Human Agency.” 

Ibe’s dissertation, entitled “Feminist Perspectives on Non-Human Agency: A More-Than-Human Approach to German 20th and 21st-Century Literature,” explores discourses on non-human agency and how feminist perspectives contribute to their discussion. It argues that recognition of materiality enables us to uncover how the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water relate to narratives. Ibe’s talk will focus on the first chapter of her dissertation, looking at the element earth. This chapter serves as an introduction to environmental writing in the 1980s, focusing on Christa Wolf’s novella Störfall: Nachrichten eines Tages. Published in 1987, the novella highlights the complex interactions of radioactive particle radiation and the element earth, narrated from a female protagonist’s perspective. 

Island/Archipelagic Studies in a Land of 10,000 Lakes: A Graduate Student Zoom Panel from AMST 8920: Archipelagic American Studies

Spring 2022

Join us on Wednesday, April 27 from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. for a graduate zoom student panel sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Initiative and the Department of American Studies. The panel will be moderated by Professor Kale B. Fajardo of the Department of American Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota. See below for presenters, bios, and paper abstracts. (Zoom Link, passcode Gb6vNi)

headshot of Alex Hopp, presenter

Alex Hopp (he/him/his) is a second-year Ph.D. student in the History Department at UMN-TC studying under Dr. Mai Na Lee. His dissertation research centers on histories of the Hmong diaspora and Southeast Asian refugee resettlement in the United States. When not occupied by his studies, he spends his time working and volunteering with DREAMers of Wisconsin and the PEOPLE program at UW-Madison, working to reduce educational disparities for underserved high school and college students in his home state. 

Title: “Towards an Archipelagic Hmong American Critique: Island Studies, Critical Refugee Studies, and the Ecological Destruction of Empire”

Abstract: The burgeoning field of critical refugee studies has conceptualized the figure of the refugee as an embodied critique of imperialism and its attendant violences. Often focused on illuminating structures of war, displacement, and racialization, another crucial component and aftereffect of imperial violence–environmental degradation–has flown under the radar. For Hmong refugees resettled in the United States, however, environmental destruction has served as a constituent part of their understanding of the violence of displacement. Importantly, this sort of violence is not always immediately apparent, hidden under the overlapping layers of destruction that compose Hmong refugee history. Nevertheless, the fields of Island Studies and Archipelagic American Studies, already concerned with the environmental impacts of imperialism, offer crucial frameworks that render this critique of empire legible. Thus, in thinking through Hmong America as an archipelago, this paper will seek to demonstrate how Hmong understandings of refugee resettlement in the United States offer a critique of environmental degradation that would otherwise remain opaque.

headshot of Lindsey Smaka, presenter

Lindsey Smaka (she/her/hers) is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Comparative and International Development Education at UMN-TC. Along with being a Ph.D. student, she teaches chemistry and coordinates the Global Scholar Program at Edina High School in Edina, Minnesota. Her passion for global and international education was sparked by her experience as a Fulbright Fellow in Morocco in 2019 where she researched the language of instruction in science education. Lindsey coordinates science student travel, specifically environmental conservation research while connecting students to Indigenous communities with their fieldwork. She has led student conservation research expeditions to South Africa (2017), Fiji (2018), and Ecuador (2019). Lindsey is also a National Geographic Certified Educator and is a part of the Rotary Club of Edina. She volunteers in many capacities through the Rotary, including coordinating and running the Rotary-sponsored Global Scholar Program, participating in a service expedition to Guatemala, and taking part in both the International Grants and Diversity and Equity Committees. She was named Edina’s 2021 Rotarian of the Year. Lindsey plans to research construction of student conservation knowledge and how students merge western science with Indigenous and local knowledge systems while in an immersive travel experience.

Title: “From Minnesota to Madagascar: Reimagining Ecological Conservation Pedagogy through Indigenous Island Roots”

Abstract: This paper explores how the colonial history and geographical placement of Madagascar have affected both the islandness of its local people and conservation efforts. I am arguing that it is essential to look at its people's indigenous island knowledge as conservation research continues in Madagascar particularly because this research is a part of my broader efforts as a secondary science educator. This paper outlines crucial Indigenous knowledge that I intend to engage with and teach global north secondary students about during my proposed dissertation research in Madagascar in 2023. Madagascar is a unique island to study as it is oftentimes overlooked as an island because of its size and tends to be caught in the middle of belonging to Africa and the Indian Ocean world and as a result can be forgotten. With Madagascar's unique history and location on the globe as an archipelagic nation, conservation efforts in this country are critical as the globe dangerously approaches the 1.5 celsius global warming threshold. It is essential to look to its peoples' Indigenous island knowledges as conservation research continues in Madagascar. 

headshot of Eunice Kim, presenter

Eunice Kim (she/they) is a graduate student in the University of Minnesota’s History department. She researches transpacific migration in the latter half of the 20th century, with a focus on the interactions between the refugees and the Asian im/migrant communities that existed around the U.S. military bases in Busan, Guåhan, and Hawaiʻi.

Title: “‘Containing’ the evacuees from Vietnam on an Island: Operation New Life on Guåhan in 1975”

Abstract: More than 110,000 evacuees from Vietnam arrived in Guam through Operation New Life in 1975. As the evacuees waited to be processed for entry into the United States or another country, their number in the “Tent City” during May 1975 outnumbered the Guam residents and sometimes sparked an anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment. This research attempts to look deeper under that reactionary surface and analyze the public discussion around availability of clean water, military’s control of lands and roads, and medical screening and vaccination process. I argue that this point in history reveals a complicated legacy of racism, settler colonialism, and medical humanitarianism that aided and justified the expansion of the US military as well as its immigration regime rooted in exclusion. This paper also presents primary sources that discuss potential resettlement of Vietnamese evacuees to Pacific Islands.

Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities - A Virtual Seminar Series

Spring 2022

On March 25 from 1:30 - 3:00 pm, join us for “Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities: A Conversation with 2021-2022 EHI Graduate Fellows.” 

Zoom link, passcode: z6ZaPe

Headshot of Carlie Cervantes de Blois

Carlie Cervantes de Blois, PhD candidate in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, will be speaking on “Damming Indonesia to Modernity: Considerations of Water in Agricultural Development.” The literature of the Green Revolution in Asia has established that the Green Revolution in Asia increased overall rice yield but also left ecological and economic challenges for local farmers in the name of modernity; however, often overlooked is the role of local water systems in development plans. By examining two dams in Indonesia, I argue that dam development and water management was critical to Indonesia’s goals of progress in the 20th century.

Ntombizodwa Mpofu headshot

Ntombi Mpofu, PhD candidate in History, will be speaking on “Emalahleni ‘place of coal’: A history of water scarcity and electricity production.” The introduction of electricity in South Africa in the late 1800s led to the foundation of coal mining towns like Emalahleni, which contained racialized enclaves populated by poor and black people vulnerable to water scarcity and pollution. Due to the importance of electricity to the country’s economy and the high demand for water in electricity production, the activities of industrial water users like the Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) and coal mines have historically contributed to water pollution and scarcity. In post-apartheid South Africa, the persistence of scarcity and pollution is sustained under the National Water Act of 1998, which allocated the electricity production industry a position of strategic water user, this designation legally underwrites, protects, and privileges industrial water usage to the detriment of human consumption. Using Emalahleni as a case study, I examine and respond to South Africa’s current and impending water crises by investigating the role played by the electricity industry in perpetuating these historical water challenges. I argue that colonial and apartheid legislative systems have endured well into the current legal system and continue to contribute to the water crises faced by vulnerable communities. Centering scarcity and demonstrating the intertwined relationship between water and energy production is key to understanding water history in South Africa. While scarcity dominates debates about water history in South Africa, it is often explained as a natural phenomenon. I argue the opposite, suggesting scarcity as a product of the colonial project, and the state’s modernization projects. In the process of making an industrialized nation, the South African state produces scarcity, which affects the poor, and black communities adversely and singularly.

Jack Halberstam on Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire

EHI is pleased to co-sponsor a talk by Jack Halberstam on Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire (Duke, 2020), which offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the twentieth century. The talk will be held on Wednesday, October 13 at 5pm on Zoom. Halberstam is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University, as well as a UMN graduate (Ph.D. in English Literature, 1991). This event is presented by the Department of American Studies and is co-sponsored by the departments of English and GWSS, and the Center for RIDGS. (Register for the Zoom event here.)

Contemporary Developments in the Environmental Humanities: 2021 Transatlantic Conversations Series

Join EHI co-organizer Dan Philippon for "Contemporary Developments in the Environmental Humanities," a panel conversation which will consider current perspectives on ecocriticism and the environmental humanities through an interdisciplinary and comparative lens. Dan Philippon will be joined by co-panelist Alexa Weik von Mossner from the University of Klagenfurt. The conversation will be moderated by David Clay Large, IES Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the UC Berkeley Austrian Studies Program. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology Austria (OSTA), Washington DC and the Center for Austrian Studies. It will take place on Wednesday, October 6 at 12 pm CST. (Watch the event recording here.

Online Conference: Toward a New Way of Being with Plants (June 17-18, 2021)

April 21, 2021


This free two-day online event will explore human/plant connections, including ethics in human treatment of plants, plant sentience and communication, and opportunities for developing more respectful and reciprocal relationships between humans and plants.

The goals of this conference are to:

  • inspire people to change the ways in which they think about, interact with, and utilize plants so that their actions will be more respectful toward and collaborative with plants

  • advance the perspective that plants are much more complex, sentient, and intelligent than is commonly acknowledged

  • provide a forum for Indigenous and other perspectives that promote more respectful ways of relating with plants

  • help to connect people who are interested in working for more respectful treatment of plants

  • encourage and support the development of a network seeking to increase respectful treatment of plants that will continue after the event

  • inspire and encourage scholarly emphasis on plant-human relationships

Visit the conference agenda (with links) here. Visit the conference website here or register here.

Artwork courtesy of Zachari Logan. Detail image of a portion of Esta Selva Selvaggia, No. 2, pastel on black paper, 47 x 94 inches, 2019.

Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities - A Virtual Seminar Series

Spring 2021

Join us for "Hyperobjects: An EHI Interview and Q&A with Timothy Morton" on Friday, February 26 from 2pm - 3:30pm (Zoom link). Host Dr. Mark Pedelty will kick off the event in conversation with Dr. Morton before opening up to an interactive Q&A with the audience.

Missed the conversation? Listen to it here on the Public Lands Podcast.

Join us for "Dialogues in the Environmental Humanities: A Conversation with EHI graduate fellow Chris Bowman" on Friday, March 12 from 1:30 - 3pm (Zoom link, passcode: 0Vk6QE).

Join us for "Environmental Storytelling" with authors Kendra Atleework and Clare Boerigter on Friday, March 26 from 2pm - 3:30pm (Zoom link, password DKKbM0). In Miracle CountryKendra blends family memoir with a rich environmental history of her California home-place. In her work for the Cloquet Forestry Center (CFC), Clare enlivens science and history through storytelling. Explore Clare's work for the CFC, including a multimedia piece on old-growth red pines and a historical collection of life at the Center.

Join us for these events—if there’s an appetite for more, we’ll happily continue the Dialogues series based on your suggestions.