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Calendar and Events

Shimmering Presences: Frog, Toad, and Toxic Interdependencies - Professor Alexis Shotwell

This paper is about anurans – frogs and toads. I attend both to the trope of gender-bending and disabled amphibians and to their actual bodies and lives, arguing for a queer disability attention to the toxic present as a kind of responsibility. Anurans have, over the last ten years, been frequently held up as warning signs for biological dangers inherent in many of our practices around food, climate, and mining. Industrial production, whether of corn or petroleum, has effects on the world around it. As I'll explore, one of the main ways people argue that these effects are too harmful to justify current production practices evokes gender and disability danger; humans, the warning goes, will be born disabled, queer, or genderqueer if we continue using or producing certain substances. And the way we know this, the narrative continues, is that frogs and toads are being born with bodily anomalies including ambiguous genitalia, changed voiceboxes, extra limbs, and more. My agenda is not to argue that we should not be worried about toxins and their effects – worry and action are both, I believe, at least justified and almost certainly necessary. Rather, I argue that we ought to cultivate practices of responsibility for the toxic present we are implicated in creating that do not rely on anti-disability or trans-hating tropes and that simultaneously do not attend to anurans merely as indicator species. I look toward “civilian scientists” – ordinary people who practice a naturalist’s attention to their world – as exemplars of this kind of practice of responsibility.

Thursday, October 2nd at 6:30pm in the Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance (86 Wentworth Street)

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Age of Man Environmentalism and Respect for an Independent Nature- Professor Ned Hettinger

The debate over whether we have entered a new geological epoch known as “The Anthropocene” has helped spawn “Age of Man Environmentalism” (AME). According to AME, humans’ planetary scale impact indicates that respect for an independent nature can no longer serve as a guiding value for environmentalism. Traditional environmental goals of nature preservation and restoration are problematically grounded in the illusory ideal of pristine nature. Humans are now fully integrated into nature and have no choice but to become responsible managers of the earth we have created and to govern it according to our ideals.

This talk critically examines AME and defends traditional environmental values of naturalness and respect for nature’s autonomy. AME’s serious exaggeration of the extent of human influence over Earth manifests an anthropocentric narcissism that is blind to the ongoing agency of nature. Rather than becoming gods or parents of a nature that allegedly needs us, human flourishing requires we strengthen our commitment to humility, restraint, and respect for the gifted character of the world. Naturalness is increasingly valuable the more rare it becomes. AME’s insistence on a thoroughly managed future ignores the possibility of rewilding and turning nature loose. Its promotion of non-native species and ill-defined “novel ecosystems” is an attempt to polish the image of human-impacted nature and denigrate the value of preserved wild areas. Taking seriously the massive human impact on earth does not require abandoning traditional environmental values.

Tuesday, September 9th at 3:15pm in Arnold Hall, Jewish Studies Center

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