Cardiff Environmental Cultures

As a strand of the Cardiff ScienceHumanities initiative, Cardiff Environmental Cultures brings together scholars from a range of disciplines to interrogate the cultural, historical, and theoretical forces that shape our relationships with the environment. 

The group aims to:

  • support research and teaching about environmental issues; 
  • foster debate between researchers, activists, and the public about the current environmental emergency;
  • help imagine and implement better possible futures. 

We run a Research Seminar Series, and meet as a Reading Group with our friends at the Cardiff Centre for Environmental Justice. To join Cardiff Environmental Cultures and receive updates about our events, please email shackletond@cardiff.ac.uk.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Wednesday 15th December 2021, 16:00-17:30 (UK time), Zoom — Research Seminar Series. Malcom Ferdinand, ‘Decolonial Ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean World’. Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/malcom-ferdinand-decolonial-ecology-thinking-from-the-caribbean-world-tickets-224028163267. Zoom link: https://cardiff.zoom.us/j/89736848741?pwd=V0REcU9UTGhmK0N0akY0QnRsZXhOdz09.

EXHIBITION

Literature and the Environment runs at Special Collections and Archives at the Arts and Social Sciences Library, Corbett Road, Cardiff until April 2022 (open semester weekdays, 9am – 5pm). All are welcome.

PAST EVENTS

30th November 2021, 15:00-16:00 (UK time), Zoom — Reading Group. Malcom Ferdinand, A Decolonial Ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean World (2019/2021), Prologue and Part 1.

23rd November 2021, 15:00-16:00 (UK time), Zoom — Reading Group. Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015), Introduction and chapters 1 and 3, alongside her website: https://feralatlas.supdigital.org.

16th November 2021, 15:00-16:00 (UK time), Zoom — Research Seminar Series. Celina Osuna (Arizona State University), ‘Storied Deserts and Indigenous Women Writers From the U.S. Southwest’.

26th October 2021, 15:00-16:00, Zoom — Reading Group. Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble (2016), Introduction, and chapters 2 and 4.

19th October 2021, 13:00-14:00, Zoom — Research Seminar Series. Maddison McGann (University of Iowa), ‘Viral Reception and the Crisis of Time in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man‘.

2nd June 2021, 13:00-14:00, Zoom — Reading Group. Dina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (2019).

5th May 2021, 13.00-13.50, Zoom — Reading Group. Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (2021), introduction and first chapter (‘Four Theses’).

10th March 2021, 13:00-13:50pm, Zoom — Reading Group. Kathryn Yussof, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (2018).

23rd February 2021, 16:00-18:00, Zoom — ‘Environmental Activism Workshop’ for students taking eco-modules at Cardiff University. The workshop featured the following presentations: 

  • Prof. Allen Webb (University of Western Michigan), ‘Literature and Environmental Activism’  
  • Emma Lewins (SOS-UK), ‘Students Organising for Sustainability UK’ 
  • Hannah Penwright (Cardiff University), ‘Cardiff University Extinction Rebellion Society’  
  • Dr Sophia Hatzisavvidou (University of Bath), ‘Environmental Justice and Activism’ 

17th February 2021, 19:00-20:30, Zoom — Cardiff BookTalk in association with Cardiff ScienceHumanities — Susan M. Gaines’s Accidentals. Martin Willis, Frank Hailer, and novelist Susan M. Gaines discussed this contemporary novel which addresses some of the most pressing environmental and political issues of our times.

12th February 2021, 14:00-17:00, Zoom — ‘Politicising Environments: A Workshop on Politics and the Environment’. Inspired by the success of our ScienceHumanities Unscripted events, the event consisted of informal 10-15 minute presentations from four scholars, each followed by questions, and then culminating in plenary discussion. Conversations were prompted by contributions from Wilko Hardenberg (MPIWG), Anna Hornidge (DIE), Flora Roberts (Cardiff), and Aidan Tynan (Cardiff).

15th December 2020, 17:00-17:50, Zoom — Professional Development Seminar for English Literature and Creative Writing Staff at Cardiff University on ‘Embedding Environmental Issues in Non-Eco Modules’. Contributions from Jamie Castell, David Shackleton, Ceri Sullivan, Aidan Tynan, and Allen Webb.

7th December 2020, 13:00-13:45, Zoom — ScienceHumanities Unscripted: The Environmental Humanities.

24th November 2020, 13:00-14:00, Zoom — Research Seminar Series. Professor John Parham (University of Worcester), ‘Let the Sunshine In: Poetry and Photosynthesis’.

18th November 2020, 13:00-15:00 — ‘Environmental Activism Workshop’ for students at Cardiff University, with Professor Allen Webb (Western Michigan University)

CONVENORS

Dr David Shackleton (Cardiff University). David is interested in the relationship between climate change and fiction. He is starting a new project that explores how Afrofuturism and much recent speculative fiction can help us to imagine more equitable transitions to a low-carbon future. He hopes to collaborate with others who are interested in responding to the challenges posed by climate breakdown.

Dr Aidan Tynan (Cardiff University). Aidan’s work draws on continental philosophy and theory, particularly Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, to research topics in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. His most recent monograph The Desert in Modern Literature and Philosophy: Wasteland Aesthetics (Edinburgh, 2020) analyses how deserts and wastelands figure in a broad range of continental philosophy since Nietzsche and literature since the Romantics. His current project is on the connections between environmental culture and far-right politics.

MEMBERS

Dr Jen Iris Allan (Cardiff University). Jen studies global social movements now working on climate change. Social movements working for women’s rights, labour rights, global justice, among others, have put a human face on climate change. Her work explores how and why these movements joined UN climate change governance, with varying degrees of success.

Dr Seth Armstrong-Twigg (Cardiff University). Seth is a researcher examining depictions of environmental degradation in Welsh industrial literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. From waste and deforestation to air and water pollution, Seth’s work foregrounds the destructive legacy of industry in Wales.

Professor Robin Attfield (Cardiff University). Robin is seeing through the press ‘Environmental Thought: A Short History’, due to be published by Polity in March 2021. This book surveys environmental thought from ancient times, with occasional forays into non-western thought, but mainly focuses on the period since Darwin, including Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, the early environmental classics of the 1970s and 80s, environmental philosophy, and the triple environmental emergency of air pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Dr Jess Britton (University of Exeter). Jess is a social scientist interested in how and why places matter for decarbonisation. Her work mainly focusses on the politics and practices of energy system change at the city and regional scale, including processes of devolution and governance rescaling.

Dr James Castell (Cardiff University). Jamie is interested in the role of nature in poetry from the Romantic period to the present day. He focuses in particular on the complexity of the word ‘nature’, literary encounters with animals, various disciplinary approaches to the question of ‘life’, the importance of sound in accounts of nature, and also in how literary texts are reinterpreted through the lens of their changing ecological circumstances, including in our own age of environmental crisis.

Dr Lisa El Refaie (Cardiff University). Lisa’s main research interests are in visual and multimodal forms of rhetoric, with a focus on metaphor. To date, most of her work has been in the fields of ‘graphic literature’ (alternative comics) and health communication, but she is becoming increasingly interested in environmental rhetoric, particularly where this intersects with health and wellbeing.

Dr Sophia Hatzisavvidou (University of Bath). Sophia is a political theorist who is interested in environmental rhetoric(s). Her research looks at the uses of scientific evidence in ecopolitical discourse; at the differences between competing ecopolitical visions; and at the place of ‘justice’ in discourses on low-carbon futures.

Dr Pan He (Cardiff University). Pan is an environmental scientist, interested in exploring how human consumption affects the natural environment, and in examining how policy can improve sustainability by promoting behavioural change. Specifically, her research investigates how food and energy consumption patterns result in environmental impact, and explores the opportunities and challenges in realizing sustainable development goals concerning environmental sustainability, social justice, nutrition, and energy security. 

Dr Hannah Hughes (Cardiff University). Hannah’s research is motivated by a deep concern over the the state of the environment and continued environmental degradation. To date, it has mostly focused on the politics of climate change. She has approached climate politics from different perspectives to try understand: 1) how we mobilise a greater political response (securitisation); 2) who has the power and what constitutes their authority to know and respond to climate change (Bourdieu inspired study of the IPCC); 3) how we challenge the present social, political and economic order and its destruction of the environment (methodological innovation, IPBES and biocultural diversity).

Dr Elizabeth Irvine (Cardiff University). Liz’s main interests are in philosophy of cognitive science and psychology, and includes work evaluating the scientific methodologies used in comparative psychology and animal sentience research. The aim of this work is to improve the way that we theorise and investigate non-human animal abilities.

Maddison McGann (University of Iowa). Maddison’s doctoral research cuts across ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, narrative theory, and the Victorian novel. Her other areas of interest include Victorian reviewing and print culture. In broadest terms, Maddison’s dissertation project extends recent scholarship in narrative theory and ecocriticism to illustrate how industrial and ecological forces shaped the narrative structures of Victorian fiction.

Martha O’Brien (Cardiff University). Martha is a postgraduate researcher interested in spectrality, loss, absence and decline in Welsh writing in English. Her work looks at environmental decline in the Welsh landscape as a result of climate change, and anxieties about what this means for literature, culture, politics and society.

Dr Tomos Owen (Cardiff University). Tomos’s research focuses on the literatures of Wales. He has published on non-human life (particularly bird life) in contemporary Welsh fiction, and is collaborating with Professor Helena Miguelez-Carbaillera at Bangor University on a book chapter considering the poetics of flooding in modern Welsh and Galician culture.

Professor Carl Phelpstead (Cardiff University). Carl is interested in ways in which the difference of medieval literature can illuminate and challenge present-day thinking about the environment. He has published articles on ecocriticism and Old Norse and early medieval English literature and is currently co-editing Eco-Norse: Essays on Old Norse Literature and the Environment with Tim Bourns of the University of Iceland.

Dr Flora J. Roberts (Cardiff University). Flora is an environmental historian of Soviet Central Asia and the former USSR. With a degree in Classics and a PhD in Soviet history, her interests in the environmental humanities range broadly over time and space and include poetry and novels about dams, nature writing and colonial landscapes, visualising environmental change and threat, and socialist political ecology.

Gemma Scammell (Cardiff University). Gemma is a doctoral researcher examining the use of space in the novels of Haruki Murakami. She is interested in the portrayal of environmental degradation in Young Adult Science Fiction and has recently co-authored a chapter in Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond: Feminist Ecocriticism of Science Fiction.

Jim Scown (Cardiff University). Jim’s research examines how soil was understood in scientific writing and the realist novel of the mid-nineteenth century. He is interested in how this body of writing on soils links questions of public health, resource extraction, and environmental change, and the relationships between these concerns in the nineteenth century and today.

Sophie Squire (Aberystwyth University). Sophie’s doctoral research examines the role that science fiction plays in representing our relationship with landscapes during the climate crisis. She is interested in interdisciplinary collaborations, and the value of science fiction for teaching global warming, both within and outside the academy. 

Professor Ceri Sullivan (Cardiff University). Ceri is interested in asking what practical actions staff and students can take (ranging from flexing our syllabuses to publicizing our water fountains to decarbonising our pension funds) to make a lived reality of the university’s declaration that it recognised – and would tackle – the climate crisis. All ideas welcome!

Professor Allen Webb (Western Michigan University). Allen is a Professor of English at Western Michigan University, where his research and teaching focusses on climate change from a humanities perspective, and postcolonial literature. He is currently writing a book on the urgency and ethics of teaching about climate change.