Reading group: Un-earthed

Un-earthed is an environmental humanities reading group that discusses topics and perspectives in the field, from ecocriticism to environmental history, animal studies, green media studies, environmental ethics and more.

Are you interested in exploring the environmental humanities in a more casual setting? OSEH supports this reading group that invites students, staff and members of the public to join monthly, online group discussions. All are welcome!

The reading group aims to be a platform for exploration, collaboration, and recreation. Readings may include articles, short stories, documentaries, exhibitions, video games etc. 

Want to join?

Dates, links, and readings for upcoming sessions, as well as summarizing responses to each session can be found at www.un-earthed.group.

For a record of the group’s previous sessions visit their blog at www.environmentalhumanitiesreadinggroup.blogspot.com

2022 Sessions

Solarity IV: Digital Utopianism

Time and place: April 25, 16–17:30 PM, Zoom (online)

More than a literary genre per se, Solarpunk can be regarded as a utopian subculture in-the-making with thematic and aesthetic specificities that can be traced back to the subculture that formed around the Whole Earth Catalogue beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the early days of the internet in the 90s. Studying this historical background can expose us to the media-specificity of Solarpunk and allow us to explore the role of the multimedia tools and networking platforms of the world wide web in Solarpunk’s utopian storytelling practices. In this session of UNEARTHED we will trace the utopian tenets of the internet back to the early years of its formation and ask whether Solarpunk storytelling today contributes to our critical understanding of the aesthetics and politics of cyberspace.

Readings and Zoom link available on the website www.un-earthed.group


2021 Sessions

Un-earthed: Solarpunk Architecture and Planning

So much of solarpunk discourse is fixated on architecture, planning, and construction. How can we think of these practices through utopian fiction?

Time and place: Dec. 14, 2021–5:30 PM, Zoom (online)

In this reading group session we are asking how we can best start to plan to build a solarpunk society, since so much of the discourse surrounding the movement is fixated on architecture, planning, and construction. The assigned readings consist of an excerpt from Kim Stanley Robinson's 1990 novel Pacific Edge. In the excerpt we meet the builder Kevin Claiborne, who has been recently elected to sit on his city council, in a future California run according to a much more environmental ethics and politics. The second excerpt is from a text by Eric Hunting, published on the platform Medium - it part of a long, passionate roadmap to and a blue-print for a solarpunk society. You can download the readings from our website www.un-earthed.group

The excerpts provide opportunities to reflect on what it means to build utopia - both literally and metaphorically. What is the difference between planning, building, and renovating? Who should be involved? Who do we build for? And how?


Un-earthed: solarpunk fiction

How do we use fiction to reclaim a better more sustainable future? These four short stories show us how.

Time and place: Oct. 25, 2021 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Zoom (online)

In this session we are changing things up a little by turning our attention to some works of fiction, specifically the four short stories in The Weight of Light, which is an anthology featuring essays, art and fiction. Building on last session’s discussion on elemental media, we hope to continue asking how the specific materialities and logic of solar design can generate a politics for a more just, sustainable way of living.

We are reading the following sections: For the Snake of Power by Brenda Cooper, Under the Grid by Andrew Dana Hudson, Divided Light by Corey S. Pressman, and Big Rural by Cat Rambo. Total page count: 56, but these stories make for easy, enjoyable reading so you should get through them in no time.


Un-earthed: Solarity

How can we think of solarity through the lens of elemental media? 

Time and place: Sep. 28, 2021 5:00 PM–6:30 PM, Zoom (online)

In this reading group sessions we are reading the introduction to Saturation: An Elemental Politics, by Duke University Press. The book release is scheduled for October, but the introduction is already freely available, and pairs well with Nicole Starosielski recent article “Beyond the Sun: Embedded Solarities and Agricultural Practice”.

Saturation is in dialogue with new materialist theories, as well as the book that introduced the notion of elemental media in the first place: John Durham Peters’ The Marvelous Clouds. It provides a number of key concepts that help elucidate phenomena where elements comingle and change states with repercussions for human-environmental relations. As a test, in this session we are going to look at what it offers thinking on solarity – which describes the social conditions of life under a solar-powered energy regime. How can we think of solar radiation as an element within which we live, and which influences the way in which we organize society?

Readings

  • Starosielski, Nicole. “Beyond the Sun: Embedded Solarities and Agricultural Practice” South Atlantic Quarterly 120.1, 2021, pp. 13-24. From this special issue.
  • Saturation. eds. Melody Jue and Rafico Ruiz. “Thinking with Saturation Beyond Water: Threshholds, Phase Change, and the Precipitate” Duke University Press. np.

Un-earthed: Queer Ecologies

How can notions of queerness help us better understand the environment and what we stand to lose in the climate crisis?

Time and place: June 22, 2021 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Zoom

Contributions by scholars Nicole Seymour and Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands have explored the many potentialities and challenges posed by queer ecological critiques. In this session we consider the fruitful intersections between queer theory and ecocriticism to reinterrogate the interrelationships of the queer and the natural, as well as reflect on ecological loss and empathy.

Readings

  • Seymour, Nicole. ‘Introduction: Locating Queer Ecologies’. In Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination, 1–34. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.
  • Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. ‘Melancholy Natures, Queer Ecologies’. In Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire, edited by Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson, 331–58. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Un-earthed: Feminist New Materialism

How can we feminist new materialist theory help us understand our entanglement with nature, climate and its changes?

Time and place: May 18, 2021 3:00 PM–4:30 PM, Zoom

This is an online reading group session. You can find the zoom link and the readings on our website.

In this session, we will consider how feminist new materialist theory can help us understand our entanglement with nature, climate and its changes. This approach offers an alternative to dichotomous understandings of environmental change, where the human subject is seen as somehow set apart from their changing surroundings. This dichotomy is intensified in the face of climate change, where climate appears to materially and conceptually escape the limits of human experience and comprehension. Alaimo’s, Neimanis’, and Walker’s work will allow us to reconsider these limits and the very nature of nature and climate.

Readings

  • Alaimo, S. (2008). Trans-corporeal feminisms and the ethical space of nature.  In S. Alaimo & S. Hekman (Eds.), Material feminisms (pp. 237-264). Indiana University Press. 
  • Neimanis, A., & Walker, R. L. (2014). Weathering: Climate change and the “thick time” of transcorporeality. Hypatia, 29(3), 558 - 575. https://doi.org/10.1111/hypa.12064

Un-earthed: Eco-masculinities

How are traditional, and toxic masculinities tangled up with extractive, ecologically destructive practices? And are there different masculinities we can cultivate that are more sustainable? 

Time: Apr. 21, 2021 5:00 PM–6:30 PM

In this session we explore the nexus between environmentalism, environmental degradation and masculinity. How are traditional, and toxic masculinities tangled up with extractive, ecologically destructive practices? And are there different masculinities we can cultivate that are more sustainable? Where do such alternative masculinities have their roots, and how can we start putting them into practice?


Un-earthed: Air Pollution

How can we reconceptualize air as a site of waste?

Time: Mar. 25, 2021 4:00 PM–5:30 PM

Rounding off our discussion of waste, this session will consider air as a site of waste. A key difficulty in considering the nature of air is its “tangible intangibility” (Menely): although air inescapably surrounds us, it is difficult to grasp both experientially and conceptually. With the help of three texts, we will attempt to turn air conspicuous as a site of waste. We will consider the pollution of indoor and outdoor air, as well as the broader historical significance of air as our carbon emissions change the state of the atmosphere. Through reflecting on how we lay waste to air in various ways, our entanglement with the atmosphere will come to light.

Readings

  • Horn, E. (2018). Air as Medium. Grey Room, 73, 6-25. https://doi.org/10.1162/grey_a_00254
  • Twilley N (2019) The hidden air pollution in our homes. The New Yorker [online]. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/04/08/the-hidden-air-pollution-in-our-homes [Accessed 28/06/2020].
  • Zee J (2015) Breathing in the city. Beijing and the architecture of air. Scapegoat 8: 48-58.

Un-earthed: Salvage

How do we survive in a world of waste and ruins?

Time: Feb. 22, 2021 2:00 PM–3:30 PM

How do we survive in a world of waste and ruins? In this session we will be exploring whether behind the popular aesthetics of salvage, common enough in post-apocalyptic media from Mad Max to the Fallout series, there is a politics and a praxis. How do practices of salvage recreate our relationship to the world, to consumer products and to the passage of time?

Readings

  • Williams, Evan Calder. “Salvage.” Journal of American Studies. Vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 845-859. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875815001735
  • (optional) “An archaeology of ruins” by Þóra Pétursdóttir and Bjørnar Olsen, in Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past
  • Check out/Play Flotsam. Buy or watch a lets play on Youtube.

Un-earthed: Plastics

Exploring waste through David Farrier's writings on plastics as future fossils.

Time: Jan. 18, 2021 3:00 PM–4:30 PM

‘Future fossils are all around us, in our homes, in our workplaces, and even in our bodies. […I]magine how the things around you – the plastic casing of your laptop and its titanium innards or the coffee cup standing beside it – might remain, even just as an impression in stone, millions of years from now.’ (David Farrier, ‘Introduction: Traces of a Haunted Future,’ 24)

Plastic gloves and masks are our new ‘future fossils.’ Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Nottingham-based photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been taking pictures of gloves and masks littered on the streets. The first session of un-earthed will take as a starting-point his recent work to reflect on waste, plastics, deep time and ‘future fossils.’ We will discuss three texts by Edinburgh literary scholar David Farrier. Please also consider doing Farrier’s exercise of imagination with an object of your choice before the session.

Readings  

  • Farrier, David. ‘Hand in Glove’. Orion Magazine 39, no. 3 (3 September 2020). https://orionmagazine.org/article/hand-in-glove/. 
  • Farrier, David. ‘Introduction: Traces of a Haunted Future’. In Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, 3–26. London: 4th Estate, 2020. 
  • Farrier, David. ‘The Bottle as Hero’. In Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, 89–116. London: 4th Estate, 2020. 

2020 Sessions

Bad Environmentalism

What's so funny about climate change?

Time and place: Dec. 18, 2020 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Zoom

Arguably, nothing. And yet, comedy can make space for valuable critical understanding of the way people relate to the environmental crisis and the environmental movement more generally.

This month we are reading Nicole Seymour's book Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age. Read the introduction + 1 chapter of your choosing.


WEBINAR: Deep Time. Reading Group

"The past is like a foreign country" L.P. Hartley wrote, but the deep past is like an alien world. How can we relate to deep time? And what does walking have to do with it?

Time and place: Nov. 23, 2020 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Online

This November we are thinking about deep time – specifically through the Deep Time Walk – which is an app/experience developed by Stephen Harding and Peter Oswald et al. Find the app here  https://www.deeptimewalk.org/ The app guides you on a 4.6km walk representing the 4.6 billion year history of the earth, at the pace of 1 million years per meter. The walk is about 2,5 hours and stages a conversation between a 'scientist' and 'a fool.' 

Another deep time walk we will look at is Paul Salopek’s ongoing Out of Eden walk, in which he retraces humanity’s migration out of Africa and into Europe, Asia and the America’s. Familiarize yourself with the premise and articles here https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/out-of-eden-walk/ 

There is also some optional further reading for those of you interested in visualizing deep time (https://imaginingdeeptime.blogspot.com/, see the exhibition catalogue in particular); and in walking as a research methodology. For walking as a methodology see work by Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman at the WalkingLab in Toronto. 

Some themes I’m interested in discussing:

  • ​Fitness, borders and privilege
  • Temporality and narrative
  • Digital interface / app design
  • Scale and embodiment

WEBINAR: Histories of Tree Culture. Reading Group

Why is it that the fate of individual trees often elicits strong emotional responses from people? And what role does personal, cultural or national identity play in this dynamic?

Time and place: Oct. 20, 2020 2:00 PM–3:30 PM, Online

This October marks the one-year anniversary of the reading group’s existence at Oslo University. Hurrah! To celebrate, we are finally dipping into environmental history, with a side of heritage studies. The topic? Trees. Trees are all the rage https://edgeeffects.net/tree-story/. To complement the more pop-science side of this discourse we are looking into the history of tree culture and its imbrecation in nationalism, and cultural notions of place. 

Readings

  • Jared Farmer’s “Taking Liberties with Historic Trees,” which attempts to decolonize tree culture – or arbonationalism – in the U.S.
  • chapter 8 of Owain Jones and Paul Cloke’s book Tree Cultures: The Place of Trees and Trees in their Place – which offers a British case study. 

In our discussion I would like us to think not just about argument, but also about method. How does Farmer’s “argument by accretion” (p. 842) compare to Jones and Cloke’s actor network theory? Whose voices are being taken into account and how are they balanced?

For the curious: feel free to check out the virtual tour of the Hayward Gallery exhibition “Among the Trees”.


WEBINAR: Infowhelm. Reading Group

How does information - data - feature in art and media on climate change? We are reading Heather Houser's Infowhelm to find out. 

Time and place: Sep. 28, 2020 3:00 PM–4:30 PM, Zoom

Under three different thematic headings: data processing, natural history, and the aerial perspective, Heather Houser explores contemporary art’s role in experimenting with the different affects and aesthetics of climate change epistemologies. 

We are reading the introduction to the text + one chapter of our choice. 


Reading Ecotopia. Reading Group

Ecotopia is a 1975 cult novel by Ernest Callenbach. Does it still hold revolutionary potential today?

Time and place: June 23, 2020 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Blindern lawn

We are reading excerpts from Ernest Callenbach's 1975 novel Ecotopia. Generally, it is an amusing, optimistic read - although pretty dated in its sexual and racial politics. Especially the section on race in Ecotopia, excerpted here, invites discussion in light of the BLM protests in the U.S.


WEBINAR: Being Salmon Being Human. Reading Group

This month we are reading excerpts from Martin Lee Mueller's Being Salmon Being Human, and asking ourselves how to make anthropomorphising narrativization work as a knowledge practice. 

Time and place: May 25, 2020 2:00 PM–3:30 PM, Zoom

Readings

  • "The Salmon Fairytale," chapter 12 from Being Salmon Being Human - Martin Lee Mueller 
  • The section "Thinking Like the Ocean" from chapter 8
  • "The Living Diffractions of Matter and Text: Narrative Agency, Strategic Anthropomorphism, and how Interpretation Works" by Serenella Iovino.

WEBINAR: Studying "Burgertown." Reading Group

What are the ethical and political issues at work in the study of meat and dairy production? How can we be ethical witnesses to industrial-scale animal suffering?

Time and place: Apr. 22, 2020 3:00 PM–4:00 PM, Webinar in Zoom

For our April session we are reading chapter five from Kathryn Gillespie's phenomenal book The Cow With the Ear Tag #1389, as well as an article by Jessica L. W. Carey called "'The Paradox of My Work': Making Sense of the Factory Farm with Temple Grandin." 

Both authors engage themes of ethical witnessing, animal scholarship, the challenge of thinking individual animals vs. scale and system, and the naturalization/normalization of violence against animals. 


WEBINAR: Eco-Marxism. Reading Group

This session we are exploring Marx's concept of metabolic rift, as well as the division of labour and how it plays into the work we do as environmental humanities scholars. 

Time and place: Mar. 26, 2020 4:00 PM–6:30 PM, T.b.a.

We are reading

  1. Excerpts from John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology, pp. 9-18, 141-149, and 163-176.
  2. “Stuck in the Anthropocene: The Problem of History, Theory, and Practice in Jason W. Moore and John Bellamy Foster’s Eco-Marxism” by Alexander M. Stoner and Andony Melathopoulos, or;
  3. Richard White’s “’Are you and Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?: Work and Nature.”

Comrades with too much time on their hands can read both 2) and 3).


The Blue Humanities. Reading Group

Join our February meeting on the topic of the Blue Humanities, or the study of the history and cultural imaginary of the ocean. 

Time and place: Feb. 17, 2020 5:00 PM–6:30 PM, P.A. Munch Hus 489

“No longer relegated to aqua nullius, the ocean is now understood in terms of its agency, its anthropogenic pollution and acidity, and its interspecies ontologies— all of which suggest that climate change is shaping new oceanic imaginaries.” (Deloughrey 34).

We are reading

  1. “Submarine Futures of the Anthropocene,” by Elizabeth Deloughrey, which provides an analysis of Jason DeCaires Taylor’s under water sculptures (https://www.underwatersculpture.com/).
  2. “‘The ice edge is lost ... nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North” by Philip Steinberg and Berit Kristoffersen, on the political ecology of sea Ice
  3. “Widening Gyre: A Poetics of Ocean Plastics,” by Mandy Bloomfield’s.

New Agrarianism and Permaculture. Reading Group

What values are espoused in the philosophy of New Agrarianism, and how does the concrete practice of permaculture fit into the picture?

Time and place: Jan. 16, 2020 4:00 PM–5:30 PM, Room 489, P. A. Munchs hus, Blindern

"To the diseases and degradations of the modern age, a New Agrarianism is quietly rising to offer remedies and defenses, not just to the noise, vulgarity, and congestion that have long affronted urban dwellers but to the various assaults on land, family, religious sensibilities, and communal life that have tended everywhere to breed alienation and despair."

– Eric Freyfogle

This month we are reading

  1. "A Durable Scale" by Eric Freyfogle in The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture and the Community of Life. Island Press, 2012. 
  2. “Reconciliation: New Agrarianism and Ecofeminism” by William H. Major in Grounded vision: New Agrarianism and the Academy. University Alabama Press 2011.
  3. “Permaculture in the City: Ecological Habitus and the Distributed Ecovillage” by Randolph Haluza-DeLay, and Ron Berezan in Environmental Anthropology: Engaging Ecotopia: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, and Ecovillages. Eds. Joshua Lockyer and James R. Veteto. Berghahn, 2013.

Optional reading consists of a short story by rural author Wendell Berry. 

2019 Sessions

Octopus Imaginaries. Reading Group

What can we learn from octopuses?

Time: Dec. 11, 2019

Is it octopuses, octopi, or octopodes? We never did get to the bottom of it, but talked about plenty of other things - from sea monsters to sex-objects, based on the following readings: 

  1. Excerpts from Adrian Tchaikovky's SF novel Children of Ruin
  2. "Inklings and Tentacled Things: Grasping at Kinship through Video Games," by Melissa Bianchi in Ecozon@ vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, pp. 136-150.
  3. "Octopolis," in Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith's
  4. "What Lies Below: Cephalopods and Humans," by Helen Tiffin. In Captured: The Animal Within Culture ed. Melissa Boyde. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Ecomusicology. Reading Group

How do we make sense of our environment through our ears? What are soundscapes and how can we study them?

Time: Nov. 24, 2019

For this session we read the introduction to Raymond Murray Shafer's book, as well as some other articles. 

  1. The Soundscape. Rochester: Vt. Destiny Books, 1977. 
  2. Sabine Feisst. "Music and Ecology," Contemporary Music Review, 2016, 35:3, 293-295.
  3. Sabine Feisst "Negotiating Nature and Music through Technology: Ecological Reflections in the Works of Maggi Payne and Laurie Spiegel" in Current Directions in Ecomusicology Music, Culture, Nature, Edited by Aaron S. Allen, and Kevin Dawe. 2015

Eco-Horror. Reading Group

How spooky is the environment? And why?

Time: Oct. 24, 2019

In this session we read two scary short stories in which the source of fear is somehow an ecosystemic other other, one that is not single, but numerous, mindless, and vegetable. 

  1. "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. 
  2. "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" by Ursula K. LeGuin. 
Published Mar. 28, 2022 4:14 PM - Last modified Mar. 31, 2022 10:24 AM