Spring 2021 Class Schedule
ENVR_POL 101: First-Year Seminar: Chicago Environmental Justice
The concept of environmental justice in the United States emerged in the early 1980s as African-American residents fought hazardous waste sites planned in and around their communities. Since then, the environmental justice perspective has been expanded to include the struggles of other minority groups disenfranchised on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or class. In the first part of the course, students will learn about the history of the environmental justice movement in the US and its development. Next, the course will take a closer look at environmental justice in Chicago, both past and present. A mandatory field trip to a local environmental justice organization is part of the course.
ENVR_POL 390-20: Environmental Anthropology
Anthropology has had a long, storied relationship with questions of nature and culture, society and environment, during which time a variety of theoretical approaches have been developed. This class will review these intellectual developments and recent trends with the aim of giving students toolkits for analyzing present-day environmental concerns.
ENVR_POL 390-21: International Environmental Politics
Description coming soon.
ENVR_POL 390-22: Environmental Justice in Black and Indigenous Womens' Literature
While ecocriticism has not always considered the lived experience of women of color, literary texts by African American and Native American women have found ways of theorizing their own versions of environmental and spatial justice. Reading leading theorists like Rob Nixon and Edward Soja side by side with Jesmyn Ward's post-Katrina novel Salvage the Bones (2011), Toni Jensen's stories about oil and fracking on Indigenous lands, and poetry by Nikky Finney and Heid E. Erdrich, this class interrogates how literature can inform our understanding of environmental injustice and different types of violence. It grounds the discussion in a longer history of colonial extraction and Indigenous dispossession, racism, structural neglect, and ongoing residential segregation by discussing Zora Neale Hurston's 1937 hurricane novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and looking at Zitkala-?a's influential 1924 report on the settler defrauding of Osage Indians for their oil-rich lands.
ENVR_POL 390-23: Media and the Environment
With daily reports of super storms, heat records, species declines, and melting arctic ice, there is a global recognition that we are living in an era of environmental crisis. What role does the media play in that crisis? Media production depends upon the expenditure of large amounts of energy and natural resources. Media devices contain toxic materials and take part in a culture of obsolescence that sends increasing amounts of "high tech trash" to the landfill. Media content has often developed in close connection to advertising, and so has taken part in the creation of an unsustainable consumer culture. Despite marketing rhetoric that characterizes digital technologies as weightless, virtual, and environmentally clean, we learn more every day about the energy, resource, and labor costs that undergird the Internet. At the same time, media communication can function to increase awareness about environmental issues, can substitute for other kinds of high-carbon activities like international travel, can foster communication between humans and animals, and can aid in the fight for environmental justice, as well as a host of other social and cultural benefits. How can we make sense of the complicated equation of environmental cost and benefit in media culture? This course will explore intersections of media and environment, considering media about the environment, media in the environment, and media as environment. It will cover a variety of media forms and examine how they shape our perception of the environment and foster environmental action. We will consider topics such as theories of media ecology; definitions of the "Anthropocene" epoch; the materiality of media infrastructure; media's role in raising environmental consciousness and promoting environmental justice; advertising and consumer culture; wildlife documentary; ecocritical aesthetics; environmental history; indigenous media; representations of landscape and soundscape; and animals as media performers. We will assess multiple forms of media (film, television, videogames, podcasting, sound art, infographics, and more) from a range of critical frameworks. We will consider numerous genres of environmental media as well, including apocalyptic and eco-disaster narratives, eco-comedies, "toxic" dramas, environmental melodrama, conspiracy thrillers, documentary, and animation.
ENVR_POL 390-26: Becoming Planetary: Earth, Power, Imagination
Planetary" has increasingly come to capture the imagination and apprehension of people around the world. It has also been receiving special attention in the critical social sciences and humanities as a concept that captures the relationship between social life and the Earth. Our planet is going through massive changes in its climate and ecosystems. At the same time, humans have become a major force that has been shaping the dynamics of the planet. Taking this interdependence between social life/humans and the planet, this course explores the ways in which social sciences and the humanities are responding to the entanglement of humanity and our planet. Understanding our planet as the product of a dynamic planet, self-organizing over deep time, we will explore how social and political processes —fire use, mining, disease, slavery, colonialism, extraction, trade, and extinction— have powerfully shaped and have been shaped by inhuman planetary formations. One main task of the course will be to understand how racialized and economic inequalities have made their mark on Earth through the reorganization of planetary processes.
ENVR_POL 390-27: Fire and Blood: Political Ecologies of the Environment, Energy, and Life
What kinds of tools would help us understand urgent global issues we are facing today, ranging from global pandemics and climate emergency, wildfires in California and Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Louisiana, occupational diseases in South Dakota and Toronto, or urban infrastructure crises in Mumbai and Senegal? Over the past three decades, political ecology has emerged as a powerful interdisciplinary tool for understanding and critiquing global ecological change. Political ecology seeks to unravel the political forces at work in environmental processes on a global scale. It is a powerful strategy for reinserting politics into apolitical or “greenwashed” discussions of ecology and the environment and unsettling common-sense understandings of “the environment” or “nature” as separate from the social and the cultural. It is also an essential tool to understand how disparate-seeming places, events, and living entities in the world are intimately linked to each other in often uneven ways. In this course, we will critically approach topics such as resource extraction, conservation, carbon management, natural disasters, sanitation politics, and human-animal-plant relations. In doing so, we will explore the gendered and racialized ways and the ongoing histories of slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism through which environmental and energy politics operate in our societies today.
ENVR_POL 390-28: Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy
This course focuses on laws, policies and the decision-making process related to coastal and ocean resources in the United States, and internationally. Through examination of treaties, statutes, cases, administrative materials, and academic articles, we will explore issues such as coastal land use, offshore energy, ocean pollution, the impacts of climate on ocean/coastal ecosystems, marine mammal conservation, and fisheries management.
ENVR_POL 390-29: Natural Disasters
From earthquakes to hurricanes, fires to floods, we tend to think of natural disasters as spontaneous occurrences. The word disaster originates in the idea of being born under an unlucky constellation or struck down by an uncaring universe. When homes are flooded or crops are destroyed, we see the natural world encroaching on lives and livelihoods in seemingly unpredictable and certainly unwanted ways. But are these disasters truly a product of nature?
In this class, we will engage with the complex history of natural disasters: how people experience and rationalize these events, how communities respond to them, and how the causes of disaster are explained by various stakeholders, from victims to insurance companies. By the end of the quarter, students will have developed historical, cultural, and theoretical tools for understanding the nature of the natural disaster.
ENVR_POL 390-30: Cyborg Environmentalism: Technology and the Natural World
When was the last time you hiked without a smartphone? What can playing video games teach us about interacting with nature? If you didn’t post a picture of a tree in the forest, did you really see it? In this course, digital humanities theory and practice are taught through the lens of environmental studies and political ecology, using cyborg theory to explore how the relationship between humans and the natural world is increasingly shaped by and mediated through digital technologies. This course explores theoretical concepts like connective memory, our relationship to social media and mobile photography, and digital colonialism, grounding them in tangible examples of digital humanities projects. This course will primarily use seminar style discussion with some lecture and workshops.Back to top