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. 

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 2nd 2021, 1.00-1:50pm, Zoom — Cardiff Environmental Cultures and Environmental Justice Research Unit Reading Group on Dina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock. Please contact ShackletonD@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event.

PAST EVENTS

May 5th 2021, 1.00-1.50pm, Zoom — Cardiff Environmental Cultures and Environmental Justice Research Unit Reading Group on Dipesh Chakrabarty’s The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (2021). We’ll discuss the introduction and first chapter (‘Four Theses’). Before we meet, you may also be interested in Chakrabarty’s talk on the book on April 23rd. Please contact ShackletonD@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event.

March 10th 2021, 1.00-1.50pm, Zoom — Cardiff Environmental Cultures and Environmental Justice Research Unit Reading Group on Kathryn Yussof’s A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (please contact ShackletonD@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event).

23rd February 2021, ‘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’ 

February 17th 2021, 19.00-20.30 GMT — Cardiff BookTalk in association with Cardiff ScienceHumanities — Susan M. Gaines’ Accidentals. Martin Willis, Frank Hailer and novelist Susan M. Gaines will discuss this contemporary novel that addresses some of the most pressing environmental and political issues of our times. For more information and to book your free place at this talk, please head to Eventbrite.

February 12th 2021, 2.00-5.00pm GMT, 3.00-6.00pm CET, Zoom — ‘Politicising Environments: a workshop on politics and the environment’ (please contact castellj@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event). Inspired by the success of our ScienceHumanities Unscripted events, our remit is intentionally broad, and we hope that it will inspire plenty of conversation. The event will consist of informal 10-15 minute presentations from four scholars, each followed by questions, and then culminating in plenary discussion. Our conversations will be prompted by contributions from Wilko Hardenberg (MPIWG), Anna Hornidge (DIE), Flora Roberts (Cardiff), and Aidan Tynan (Cardiff).

December 15th 2020, 5:00pm, Zoom — Professional Development Seminar on ‘Embedding environmental issues in non-eco modules’ with contributions from Aidan Tynan, Ceri Sullivan, Jamie Castell, David Shackleton and Allen Webb (please contact castellj@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event).

December 7th 2020, 1-1.45pm, Zoom: ScienceHumanities Unscripted – The Environmental Humanities (please contact castellj@cardiff.ac.uk for details and to join the event).

November 24th 2020, 1:00 PM, English Research Seminar, Zoom: Professor John Parham (University of Worcester), ‘Let the Sunshine In: Poetry and Photosynthesis’ (please contact castellj@cardiff.ac.uk for more details and the Zoom link).

November 17th 2020 – Environmental Activism Workshop with Professor Allen Webb (Western Michigan University)

CONVENORS

Dr James Castell: 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 David Shackleton: 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: 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 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.

Seth Armstrong-Twigg is a doctoral 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: 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: 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 Lisa El Refaie: 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: 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 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: 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: 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.

Martha O’Brien 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‘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: 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: 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 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: 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‘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: 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: 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.