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FOLK 575 401 Environmental Imaginaries

Mary Hufford
Seminar: Wednesday 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Cross-listed with: ENGL 584, HSSC 575
Contact: mhufford@sas.upenn.edu

"Environmental imaginaries" names the contending discourses that order society around processes of development and change. Behind public controversies over development its subjects, objects and technologies are an array of collectively wrought fictions that relate people to their material surroundings. We will be especially attentive to solipsistic Cartesian fictions that enable the persistent separation of culture from environment. How are these fictions produced enacted and materialized in such diverse sites as Appalachian strip mines and Sea World nature walks and permit hearings? What kind of environmental imaginary sustains the notion that “wisdom sits in places”? How are alternative ways of knowing and being conjured through naming practices narratives and other speech genres as well as yardscapes protest rallies and other forms of public display? We will traverse the border between humanities and social sciences. How is Bakhtin’s law of placement essential for urban planners? Why is Bateson’s notion of the thinking system vital for environmental writers? Moving from theories of world making multiple realities and aesthetic ecologies through ethnographic literature on culture and environment and into your own experience observation and written reflections this seminar will explore the production of environmental imaginaries across a range of modern genres and practices. At stake is nothing less than place identity and the nature of human being.

 
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