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Book CFP: ‘The Midwestern Moment’

2015 May 27
by Steve Rust

CFP for interdisciplinary collection of essays on Midwestern Regionalism. HC Press is a brand-new regionally themed academic press. Our first titles were released this spring and our web site will become active this summer. Please let me know if you have questions:

Hastings College Press welcomes proposals for chapters for an edited volume focused on Midwestern regionalism during the first half of the twentieth century. The volume is tentatively entitled “The Midwestern Moment: Essays in Early-Twentieth Century Midwestern Regionalism.” Midwestern regionalism includes writers, artists, publishers, intellectuals, architects, journalists, filmmakers, magazines, journals, institutions, films, etc. Subjects may include but are not limited to

• Midwestern regionalism as a movement to highlight work that was produced in the Midwest and focused on the Midwest as a counter to the cultural dominance of the coasts, especially Boston and New York City
• Individuals or institutions that purposely sought to encourage or counter the theory that Midwestern intellectuals and writers “revolted” from their Midwestern villages
• Representations of the Midwest in popular culture or by non-Midwesterners
• Rejection or confirmation of the Midwest as the agricultural Heartland
• Controversies about the definition or geographical boundaries of the Midwest
• Midwestern ecologies

Proposals should be roughly 300 words, briefly explain the significance of the subject chosen and sources available, and be sent to Patricia Oman at The editor of the volume will be Jon K. Lauck. All proposals are due by August 1, 2015. If a proposal is accepted, the resulting chapter, not exceeding 6,000 words (including notes), shall be due June 1, 2016.

Notes on “Rethinking Race and the Anthropocene”

2015 May 19
by smonani

By April Anson

University of Oregon, May 7-9th, 2015

As the first ever event of its kind, Rethinking Race and the Anthropocene marked an important methodological and epistemological moment in interdisciplinary work on environmental issues.

Bringing together scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, community outreach activists, graduate students–and even one undergraduate presenter–the symposium consisted of four panels and structured conversations accompanying the two keynote presentations. Throughout the symposium, topics often moved between–and connected–the theoretical and the pragmatic. This began with rigorous investigation of the use value of the term “Anthropocene” itself to localized resilience efforts to bring university faculty and students together with communities to work against the slow violence of industrial waste.

Overall, the conference organizers hope to maintain a sustained cross-disciplinary conversation that focuses on the intersectionality of racializing and ecocidal systems, and their implications for work in the face of climate change, environmental toxicity, and social/environmental justice concerns. Below, I briefly summarize the panels, themes, and keynotes. Though I recognize no synopsis will be adequate to communicate the depth of exchange that took place, I do hope to re-seed some of the vision here.

From left to right: Panelists David Vázquez, Julie Minich, Naveeda Khan, Jennifer James, and J Bacon

From left to right: Panelists David Vázquez, Julie Minich, Naveeda Khan, Jennifer James, and J Bacon

Opening the symposium with a few framing comments, organizers Stephanie LeMenager, Marsha Weisiger, David Vázquez, and Sarah Wald each expressed excitement for the opportunity to think together about the relationships between race, environmental devastation, and anthropogenic climate change. Thursday hosted the first panel “Rethinking Race/Ethnicity in the Anthropocene” with Naveeda Khan (Johns Hopkins U), Julie Minich (U Texas Austin), J Bacon (U of Oregon), and Jennifer James (George Washington U). This panel coalesced around the strength of vulnerability, healing through recognition of pain, and the rhetoric of CO2lonialism. This conversation also contested the continued use of the term “Anthropocene,” identifying its homogenizing speciesism and implicit inattention to the importance of colonialism, capital, and slave labor to the economies of environmental destruction. The panel was followed by a keynote from Professor Julie Sze of UC-Davis, whose talk, “Environmental Justice, Visibility, and Recognition in the Anthropocene,” attempted to center a decolonial visual politics of the Anthropocene through recognizing that a failure to see is closely linked to a failure to act. Working within Rob Nixon’s slow violence and James Scott’s notion of “seeing like a state,” Sze argued that art has the potential to highlight the most unseen, most unknown elements of both slow and fast terror. Challenging a liberal politics of empathy and recognition, Sze emphasized the importance of a transformational empathy moving beyond acknowledgment to the importance of inequality, difference, and self-recognition. After her talk, Sze was joined by Kari Norgaard (U of Oregon), Nicolae Morar (U of Oregon), and Taylor McHolm (U of Oregon) for a structured conversation regarding how power works and ways of conceiving of justice beyond the distributive model.

Friday began with moderators Marsha Weisiger and Matt Dennis introducing the “Historical Perspectives on the Anthropocene” roundtable featuring Nancy Langston (Michigan Tech U), Robert Figueroa (Oregon State U), Bob Wilson (Syracuse U), and Dan Platt (U of Oregon). This panel covered the legacies of environmental collapse such as floods, as well as social justice movements in consideration with their attendant rhetoric, resettlement, and literary past. In order of mention, these scholars asked the audience to consider terms such as “restoration justice,” “environmental identities,” and the significance of Cornel West’s recent coinage of a “planetary Selma,” and also reimagine Moby Dick’s main character as Captain Anthropocene. Mark Carey and Stephanie LeMenager moderated the next panel, “Science and Climate Justice.” Presenters Megan Fernandes (Concordia U), Janet Fiskio (Oberlin College), Anne Nolin (Oregon State U), and Terry Hunt (U of Oregon) discussed representations of the Ebola outbreak and its connection (via outbreak and intimacy) to the phenomenon of the cat café in Japan, the persistence of plantation landscapes in continuing to structure the logics of disaster in Africatown, Alabama, and neoliberal economies both underlying and affected by climate change.

Friday’s symposium concluded with the commanding voice of artist and professor of visual arts at UC San Diego, Ricardo Dominguez. Dominguez discussed his history with the Electronic Disturbance Theater 1.0/2.0, the b.a.n.g. lab, and the Particle Group. Dominguez began by asking “Who put the “scene” in the Anthropocene?” and reminded the audience that “the anthrobscence and the capitalocene-Chthulucene” shows us that “life on this planet is one of planned obsolescence.” By rejecting utopia and apocalypse early on, Dominguez and his colleagues established the aesthetics of disturbance. Further, Dominguez presented recent work like the The Transborder Immigrant Tool, a global positioning system that becomes a geo-poetic system where poetry “dissolves” the US, and The Palindrone, which chases US border drones. Focusing on the transformative potential of art broadly conceptualized, Dominguez inspired the audience with his booming voice, unsettled notions of art and technology, and modeled recognition that a certain type of extinction must take place because “a certain type of people must become extinct.” Dominguez then participated in a structured conversation with Tara Fickle, Gerardo Sandoval, and Amy Harwood. I cannot speak for the entire audience, but I would be surprised if there was anyone in the room not changed by him.

The symposium concluded with the “Racial Justice and Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Justice” panel featuring PNW community organizers Sweetwater Nannauck (the leader Idle No More in Washington), Donita Sue Fry from Native American Youth and Family Center, and Vivian Satterfield, the Deputy Director at OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon. In fitting recognition of the importance of centering people of color and indigenous perspectives in discussions of environmental justice efforts, these women discussed the work they do – importantly declaring their endeavors be considered “activism” but cultural practice. Following a quote that has often accompanied the Idle No More movement, these women exemplify what it is to declare, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

Let Rethinking Race and the Anthropocene continue to amplify that statement.


April as Provocateur

April as provocateur at the conference.

April Anson is a PhD student in Literature and the Environment at University of Oregon. Her work focuses on indigenous, environmental, and bio- politics in 19th Century American literatures, with secondary interests in scholarly activism and the tiny house movement.


Max Max ‘Fury Road': Environmental Ethics in Filmic Texts and Production

2015 May 13

If you’re headed off to see the new Mad Max film this weekend at your local cineplex, you’ll be sure to encounter a number of thematic issues related to environmental ethics.  As in the original Mad Max films, director George Miller has set this film in a world plagued by environmental disruption, including oil and water shortages, species extinction, and climate change.

As Miller explained in a recent interview with the Sierra Club, “Everybody on the set had to start from the same ground rules,” Miller said, “which was that all the worst-case scenarios you read in the news have come to pass.”

However, when asked by reporter Steve Hawk, “Is there an environmental message hidden behind all the explosions and high-speed chase scenes, or were you just out to entertain?” Miller responded, “There is an environmental story, but it’s in the subtext. The sad thing is that it doesn’t really require much exposition for the audience to buy a degraded world, because we already see evidence of it happening all around us.”

Miller’s subtle dodge of the last part of Hawk’s question, speaks to a number of issues raised by ecocinema scholars over the past ten years about the role of mainstream narrative films in shaping and responding to cultural attitudes about environmental issues.  I am reminded of David Ingram’s argument in his chapter for Ecocinema Theory and Practice that attributes meaning of such films largely to the cognitive interpretation of the film by individual viewers, not necessarily the content of the film itself. In other words, environmentality comes from how we interpret mainstream films far more than the intentions of the filmmakers. Let’s not forget, for Hollywood, the primary intention is always to make money, not teach lessons.

Although he eschews financial considerations, Miller’s suggestion that he is not out to set the ideological agenda for his audience confirms Ingram’s arguments about how we make (environmental) meaning from film:

Hawk: “You once said that movies like An Inconvenient Truth do little to change attitudes, because if you really want to motivate people, you have to touch their hearts and move them emotionally. Not just give facts.”

Miller: “There’s an interplay between the two. When you give someone a purely logical argument, you’re only involving the intellect. Which is fine in itself, but it’s not a story. A story touches the entire human being. It works with the viscera, with the intellect, and with the spirit. If a story is any good, it will follow you out of the theater. It will come back to you, and you will reflect on it. That’s my greatest hope as a storyteller, really. In the end, there’s no ideological agenda here. I’m just telling a story in response to the way that I perceive the world.”

On a personal note, in a discussion in a class on science fiction and environmental film I’m teaching at Oregon State University this term, my students generally agree that they prefer films that ‘don’t preach at us’ to more direct environmental messaging. ‘We’re beat over the head with environmental issues enough as it is,’ one student said. ‘Don’t preach at us too.’

Of course, what’s perhaps most concerning about Miller’s latest film isn’t the message audiences take away from the text, the actual environmental impact of the film on on the areas where it was filmed in the ecological sensitive desert of Namibia. Back in 2013, when only hard-core fans and industry insiders were following the film’s production, the film stirred up controversy for a short time over concerns that the film crew was tearing up the desert.

On March 5, 2013, Britain’s Guardian newspaper updated a story that was first circulated by a Nambian newspaper regarding the film’s impact on the ancient deserts of Namibia.

As reporter Natasya Tay writes in her article “Mad Max Fury Road Sparks Real-life Fury,” “The Namibian government was delighted when the director George Miller chose to shoot his post-apocalyptic sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron, in its country, bringing in 370m Namibian dollars (£27m) to the economy, employing about 900 local staff, and paying 150m Namibian dollar in taxes.”

“The film, the fourth Mad Max feature, was shot in the Dorob national park, in the Namib desert, along southern Africa’s Atlantic coast. Scientists estimate the area to be between 50m and 80m years old.

“A leaked environmental report claims film crew damaged sensitive areas meant to be protected, endangering reptiles and rare cacti.”

The original story published in The Namibian, “Mad Max Given Clean Bill of Health” back in February, 2013, Adam Hart reports that the controversy arose after a draft report on the film’s environmental impact was released. That report, written by ecologist Dr. Joh Henschel, had been commissioned by the film’s producers after concerns arose when the Nambian government granted the filmmakers permission to shoot in Dorob.  While Henschel had reported some abuses, the commission “absolved the production team … of any environmental wrongdoing” and said in a media briefing that “the production did not violate any law in Nambia.”

The question remains whether the NFC (Namibia Film Commission) sought to cover up the damage in order to avoid controversy and maintain good public relations so as to bring more films to the country for the economic benefits they provide.

For her Guardian piece, Tay interviewed Henschel about the report and the commission’s response. Henschel’s report documents damage to rare cacti and reptiles, as well as damage to the pristine desert created by vehicles used for production. However, since Dorob had not yet been officially listed as a national part prior to the start of shooting, the filmmakers technically did not break any laws.

According to Tay, Henschel “said the film crews had driven over untouched areas of the desert, and then tried to erase their tracks by sweeping the area smooth.

“They are doing the best of what they can do under the circumstances, but they can’t undo the damage done, to the environment and their reputation,” he said.

“Henschel said the film studio had hired a scientific team of its own to deal with the situation.”

While the crew at least made an effort to fix some of the damage they had caused, the question remains for those of us interested in monitoring the environmental impacts of film and media production whether more stringent environmental regulations need to be imposed on on the studios by the industry itself.


Online Wildlife and Natural History Film Course at LeMoyne College

2015 May 8

Wildlife CMM Poster_LMC

Gwen Morgan is teaching a online course on Wildlife and Natural History Film this summer through LeMoyne College that is open to anyone interested. If you are interested in registering for the course you will need to contact The Center for Continuing Education at Le Moyne College at 315-445-4141 or email

Here is a complete description:

CMM 227 Wildlife and Natural History Films

Online Summer Course at Le Moyne College

Summer Session II July 6th- August 6th

This online course will survey major developments in the wildlife and natural history film genre. Students will explore the way in which these films have portrayed our changing relationship with wildlife and nature. We will conduct a close analysis and interpretation of the social function and cultural value of wildlife and natural history films. Emphasis will be placed on important wildlife filmmakers, including the role of filmmaker, the influence of technological developments, ethics in wildlife film-making, stewardship, and the changing landscape of wildlife and natural history film.

New Website: Ecocinema and Media

2015 May 6
by Steve Rust

Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann have just created a new website – Ecocinema and Media – to further promote ecological cinema and media and ecocritical approaches to the genre film and media.

The site features a link to their popular blog, Ecocinema and Film Genre, information about their four books in the field, contact information, and more. The site looks to be another great addition to our growing field of discourse.

CFP: Humanities and Technology Review

2015 April 30
by Steve Rust

Humanities and Technology Review is currently accepting papers of 4000-6000 word length for its 2015 issue   This year’s specific theme is, “Technology and Politics”, but papers addressing any area of technology studies or the intersection of technology and some area in the humanities (especially environmental studies) are welcome.

For more information or to see previous issues of the HTR:

Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, July 1st 2015.

All submissions must conform to APA, 6th edition guidelines.  For details see,******

The HTR is an interdisciplinary, refereed journal published annually in the Fall.  All decisions on submissions are made by blind review.

Please address inquiries to:

Seán Erwin, PhD

Editor, Humanities and Technology Review
Assistant Professor Philosophy
Barry University <>

Conference Report: “Media Waste and Space Junk: SCMS 2015″

2015 April 25

This report on SCMS 2015 was contributed by Nicole Seymour

“Media Waste and Space Junk: SCMS 2015”

The 2015 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) in Montreal was a watershed moment for ecocinema studies on several levels. Having become official, the Media & Environment Scholarly Interest Group, or SIG, was able to sponsor 8 panels and hold its first meeting. In addition to the SIG-sponsored panels, several other panels and papers took up ecocritical and environmental humanities concerns – from Lauran Whitworth’s “Radical Faeries, Radical Film: Queer Pastoralism in the Films of James Broughton” to Brian Jacobson’s “Studio Fires, Containment Infrastructures, and the Ecology of Profilmic Environments.” And if one managed to escape from the massive Queen Elizabeth Hotel complex where the conference was held, one could experience a unique instantiation of media and environment, the Satosphere. As the conference program touted, “Channeling the techno-utopianism of Expo 67, the Satosphere Dome is a state-sponsored, permanent environment dedicated to large-scale moving image and sound experimentation. With a screen that is eighteen meters in diameter … you can sit back … and ponder a distinct mode of spectatorship, immersion, and art.”


I was able to attend 4 of the SIG-sponsored panels: “Media Waste: Technological Systems and the Environment” (Joseph Bookman, George Vollrath, Kyle Stine, and Jon Crylen presenting), “Excess Hollywood: Economies of Waste in Media Industries” (Kyle Edwards, Hunter Vaughan, Daniel Herbert, presenting, and Karl Schoonover, responding), “Cinema in/of the Anthropocene” (Janet Walker and Selmin Kara, presenting), and, of course, my own panel, “Engaging Ecocinema: The Affects and Effects of Environmental Documentaries” (Salma Monani, Alexa Weik von Mossner, and Nicole Seymour, presenting, and Adrian Ivakhiv, responding). Several major themes and concerns emerged in these panels, and I will attempt to briefly summarize and explore them here.


First, the concept of the “The Anthropocene,” not surprisingly, loomed large. But more than simply invoking it, presenters smartly questioned it, staging debates around its periodization, implications, and value as a critical and activist heuristic. For example, in a paper on Beasts of the Southern Wild and Gulf Coast geomedia, Janet Walker drew on geographer Kathryn Yusoff’s work to explore the idea of humanity as a geological object, not just a geological force. That is, while the concept of the Anthropocene helps us see ourselves as uniquely shaping the geological record, Walker and Yusoff urge us to also see ourselves as having something in common with other life forms – that we might become fossils, too. In this sense, Walker’s paper, along with many others, implicitly took up questions of temporality and time scale.


Second, many of the papers engaged with what Karl Schoonover referred to as the “emerging frenzy in the humanities to talk about waste.” In particular, the “Media Waste” and “Excess Hollywood” panels discussed industry waste production and the in/visibility of waste. Presenters on both panels invoked the first and only report on industry waste, UCLA’s “Sustainability and the Motion Picture Industry” (see, as well as relevant, related works such as Jennifer Gabrys’ Digital Rubbish, Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller’s Greening the Media, and Nadia Bozak’s The Cinematic Footprint. Both panels also raised the work of Irish artist John Gerrard, who famously used a helicopter to capture images of Google’s massive data center at Pryor Creek, Oklahoma (see’s-“farm”/). Gerrard’s work speaks to Hunter Vaughn’s point about the fallacy of our pervasive idea of the digital image as non-commodity, as immaterial. While fellow panelist Edwards declared that “Stories of waste tend to stay hidden,” Vaughan reminded us that, with the rise of documentaries on waste, and artwork such as Gerrard’s, “Film [and media] fulfills its potential in showing the unseen.” Selmin Kara’s paper on films such as Gravity and Snowpiercer added another dimension to this larger discussion. Focusing on these films’ inclusion of techno-industrial waste such as “space junk,” she suggested that we now have such cinematic “waste fantasies” because cinema may be becoming waste, due to emerging and competing media. Kara thus characterized such films as “postcinema.” But cinema has been concerned about its status from the very beginning, as scholars such as Paul Young (The Cinema Dreams Its Rivals: Media Fantasy Films from Radio to the Internet) have shown. Thus, we might consider that cinema has always been postcinema in its imagination – or, perhaps better, considering the materialist claims of many presenters, that cinema has always been a cinema of waste.


Finally, all panels in some way took up the question of complicity vs. action. During the Q&A for “Media Waste,” for example, Stine invoked cinema’s inherent destructiveness, drawing on Heidegger to propose it as “a setting-upon the world as exploitable.” Similarly, an audience member during the Q&A for “Cinema in/of the Anthropocene” declared, “we’re complicit with the energy structures as media scholars.” (This point was well-taken, as projectors continued to project, overhead lights hummed, and laptops glowed.) In noting that our “Engaging Ecocinema” panel collectively identified alternative strategies to dominant documentary modes – from animation to irony – Ivakhiv as our respondent was somewhat more positive. He declared that “We need all these [alternative] strategies and more – strategies that build the “we” that can take it all [environmental crisis] on, and strategies that question the ‘we.’” I objected, however, that I worry about the question of what film can do in the face of environmental crisis because of how that question instrumentalizes art; the same, I believe, can be said for the question of what scholarship can do.


Overall, these panels represent an interest in shifting cinema and media studies critique beyond what’s onscreen, to a larger view of industry practice and how that practice intersects with social systems of ideology and value production. While, on the one hand, this interest suggests that the activist tendencies of ecocriticism have effectively made their way into cinema and media studies, it also reminds us of how cinema and media studies has always been good at thinking extratextually, with reception studies, studio history, and industry studies (among others) forming important subspecialties of the field. Ecocinema studies thus seems primed for further exploration of the triangular research model that Hunter Vaughan proposed – “Media – Value – Waste” – and of many other pressing questions as well.


Editor’s Note: For more information about the SCMS Media and Environment Special Interest Group or if you are an SCMS member interested in joining the group, visit:


Nicole Seymour is Assistant Professor of English, California State University Fullerton and Carson Fellow Alumnus, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (2013-14). Her 2013 book, Strange Natures (University of Illinois Press) has recently been nominated for and ASLE book award. It can be ordered at:

Kindle edition:

Conference CFP: New Directions in the Humanities

2015 April 24
by Steve Rust

The Humanities community is pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the Fourteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities. The Humanities Conference will be held 8-11 June 2016 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Student Center East. We welcome submissions from a variety of disciplines and perspectives and encourage faculty and students to jointly submit proposals, discussing the humanities through one of the following themes:
Conference Themes:
• Critical Cultural Studies
• Communication and Linguistic Studies
• Literary Humanities Civic, Political, and Community Studies
• Humanities Education
“Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene”

2016 Special Focus: ‘Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene’

The purpose of the various fields of the humanities is to reflect on the human condition. One of the fundamental questions of our times, and one that is increasingly central to the question of our human condition, is the condition of nature. In this regard, there is a growing concern that our very species’ existence is now under threat as a consequence of human activity. The age of ‘the Anthropocene’ is characterized by the blowback of a ‘great acceleration’ in human impacts upon nature: modern industry, population growth, and increasing per capita consumption. These have resulted in human-induced changes to global temperatures, sea levels, CO2 in the atmosphere, to name just a few consequential eco-systemic changes.

The special focus for the Fourteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities – Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene – is to explore the conceptual and historical framing of the Anthropocene. How does this reconceptualization of natural history demand new approaches to the work of the humanities? How in this frame of reference is self positioned in relation to community and nature? What is the ontological basis of knowledge, autonomy, and freedom as interpretative perspectives on human action in the natural world? How do we read the symbolic and its distinction from or imbrication with, the material? What is the unique character of human history and its contra-distinction with natural history, of geological time compared to human time? How should the humanities and the natural sciences relate to each other as we address the challenges of the Anthropocene?

Proposal Submissions and Deadlines

The current review period closing date for the latest round of submissions to the Call for Papers (a title and short abstract) is 7 May 2015*. Please visit our website for more information on submitting your proposal, future deadlines, and registering for the conference.

If you are unable to attend the conference, you may still join the community and submit your article for peer review and possible publication, upload an online presentation, and enjoy subscriber access to The Humanities Collection.

*Proposals are reviewed in rounds adhering to monthly deadlines. Check the website often to see the current review round.