A Mellon Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures:
The specifics of ecological destruction often take a cruel turn, affecting those people who can least resist its impacts and those who are least responsible for it. Communities absorb the shock of catastrophe in unequal ways. Therefore, to generalize about losses, precedents, and paths forward becomes detrimental to understanding the uneven particulars of what scientists now refer to as the age of the Anthropocene.
This Mellon Sawyer Seminar, Deep Horizons: Making Visible an Unseen Spectrum of Ecological Casualties & Prospects, aims to traverse multiple disciplines and perspectives to investigate intersectional questions concerning the changing planet as it affects specific peoples, communities, wildlife species, and ecosystems in varying and inequitable ways.
Throughout 2020-2021, the year-long seminar will be led by faculty from art, biology, cinema, history, indigenous studies, linguistics, sociology, and other departments. Together, the team will invite preeminent scholars and practitioners to CU Boulder and host numerous public events, including panels, lectures, and art exhibitions around the Boulder-Denver area.
Additionally, principal investigators Erin Espelie and Brianne Cohen will co-instruct a coinciding graduate course, facilitating more in-depth discussions with invited specialists as well as the expert participants affiliated with the project. The Mellon Sawyer Seminar will support a postdoctoral research fellow, based at NEST Studio for the Arts, as well as a graduate student in the Department of Art & Art History.
About this Theme
The seminar’s theme – Deep Horizons – suggests the need to stand firmly on Earth yet also push the limits of our vision. Against the hubristic, quick “clean-up,” “rebuild,” and “rebound” mentalities that have dominated in the aftermath of catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the still unfolding ramifications of the global coronavirus pandemic, deep horizons calls for a sensing of both the boundedness and abundance of our planet, and a perceiving, through creative means, of a less visible spectrum of casualties and prospects.
At the base of the Rocky Mountains on traditional lands of Arapaho, Ute, Cheyenne, and Eastern Shoshone, the University of Colorado Boulder is ideally positioned to host this seminar, aimed at nurturing more capacious, humanities-, arts-, and sciences-based alliances for long-term ecological transformation. The campus exists within a nexus of world-class institutes, centers, and scholars working on issues of the environment and ecology, indigeneity, and natural hazards and human-induced disasters.
Through a lens of deep horizons, this interdisciplinary, intersectional project calls for empathy, attunement, and an outlook that encompasses a diversity of individuals, communities, and collaborative entities committed to climate justice and more ethically durable futures.