Reading Environments: A Humanities Salon

Image by Georg Herman, 'Small Motifs of Insects and Plants' (1596) via The MET
Tuesday 13 March 2018 4.00 - 6.00pm

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Old City, 189 Missenden Rd, Newtown NSW 2042


Reading Environments is a new series of gatherings sponsored by the Sydney Environment Institute and open to staff and students from across the University of Sydney.

Our common focus is the developing, diversified, and interdisciplinary field of the Environmental Humanities. Key concerns will be drawn from environmentally-engaged philosophy, art, literature, history, and so forth. Exemplary topics may include cultures of climate change; bioethics; animals; nonhuman temporalities; ecology and biodiversity; posthumanism; planetarity; etc.

In our first term, we will sample a variety of works – academic and otherwise – that represent significant, but by no means exhaustive, features and futures of the field. Future selections will reflect the interests of salon members. Our method will encompass readings, structured discussions, free conversations, field trips, and other endeavours besides. Our materials will be drawn from sources critical and creative; textual and ephemeral; visual and other-sensory.

This month’s material:

Amitav Ghosh – The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (U of Chicago 2016)

For some thinkers, climate change, and the processes it metonymically invokes, pose critical challenges for imagination, representation, and narration. In this text, Ghosh describes how “literary” fictions and conventional histories have proven insufficient interpreters of climate crisis. The Great Derangement touches questions of story, form, event, individualism, and individualism’s alternatives.

Proposed materials (subject to change):

Wanuri Kahiu – Pumzi (Inspired Minority 2009)

Kahiu’s short film inhabits a placed called Maitu, East African Territory, a few decades after World War III (“The Water War). It is preoccupied by climate change, scarcity, the instrumentalization of bodies, utopian possibilities, and much more besides.

Michael Marder & Anaïs Tondeur – The Chernobyl Herbarium: Fragments of an Exploded Consciousness (Open Humanities 2016)

This formally ambitious work gathers thirty “fragments” – text and image – generated, so to speak, by the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. These fragments analogize “an exploded consciousness,” a term that reflects both the disorienting and disempowering consequences of disasterand the potential to “think the unthinkable and represent the unrepresentable.”

Nnedi Okorafor – “MOOM!” (Hartmann 2012)

“MOOM!” is one of several stories in Okorafor’s oeuvre to engage the environmental and social consequences of petroleum extraction and transportation in West Africa. It was inspired by a 2010 Reuters headline, “Swordfish Attack Angolan Oil Pipeline.” It would become the opening chapter of her 2016 novel Lagoon.

Philip Samartzis – A Surrender to Wind in 9 Parts / Éloge du Vent en 9 Mouvements(France Culture 2017); David Dunn – “Acoustic Ecology and the Experimental Music Tradition” (NewMusic 2008)

“What is wind and how does it shape the way we listen?” For a recent radio series with France Culture, Samartzis, co-founder and Artistic Director of the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture in Victoria, attended to wind-sounds to access “new knowledge” of circumstances like Antarctic blizzards and Australian wildfires.

For more information contact: killian.quigley@sydney.edu.au