Category: Academe

Announcing A(S)CENE

A new blog has been launched in conjunction with my class “Environment, Science, and Society in the Anthropocene.”

It’s called A(S)CENE and its tag line is “Beyond the Anthropocene: Bracketing an Era.”

A(S)CENE is a blog dedicated to discussions of the Anthropo(s)cene — the scene of humanity’s ascendance to a biogeological force — and of what might follow it.

Further information is available here. The first set of readings can be found here.

Anyone with an interest in the subject matter can participate. Many of the readings (and viewings) will be open-access; I’ll try to make any others available where possible.




Ontologies of bilocation

For interdisciplinary scholars, it’s always a challenge to decide which conferences to attend and which to forgo. The problem is particularly acute when the conferences are held at the same time, as occurred last week with the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and American Academy of Religion (AAR).

As I’ve been attending both of them off and on for years, the decision hinged for me around the fact that I had organized the Latour session at the AAR.

Latour himself, however, would be attending the AAA. (We tried to get him to bilocate, but didn’t succeed.) And it turns out that his session, “The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology” — featuring an all-star cast of Philippe Descola, Marshall Sahlins, Michael M. J. Fischer, Kim Fortun, and Latour — was scheduled for the very same time as our panel.

It also turns out, as Rex relates at Savage Minds, that ontology was “the big theme” at the AAA this year.

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Under Western Skies CFP

Under Western Skies: Intersections of Environments, Technologies, and Communities

September 9 – 13, 2014
Mount Royal University
Calgary, AB CANADA

Under Western Skies is a biennial, interdisciplinary conference on the environment. The third conference welcomes academics from across the disciplines as well as members of artistic and activist communities, non- and for-profit organizations, government, labour, and NGOs to address collectively the environmental challenges faced by human and nonhuman actors.

The conference is held on the Mount Royal University campus (Calgary, Alberta, CANADA) in the LEED Gold-certified Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning.

Keynote speakers for the 2014 conference include:

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Digital environmental humanities

It’s the second day of the Digital Environmental Humanities Workshop at McGill University. Yesterday was devoted to the environmental humanities, today to the digital. One of the main goals is to bring the two together in new and productive ways.

Many exciting developments… Geoff Rockwell has been posting his notes from the conference. His list of links to digital humanities tools is particularly useful; scroll down to “Sunday Sept. 8th” on that page.

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The AAR panel responding to 2013 Holberg Prize winner Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures has now been scheduled. Information is as follows.


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Shaviro interview

A few cousin blogs have already mentioned Figure/Ground’s interview with Steven Shaviro, which I recommend for those interested in Whitehead, speculative realism, media theory, and other themes explored on this blog.

Shaviro has insightful things to say about Isabelle Stengers’ role in reviving an interest in Whitehead, Gilbert Simondon and his (and Whitehead’s) relevance for ecological thinking, and Francis Fukuyama’s neo-conservative critique of the academic tenure system.

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Publishers: from sublime to ridiculous

Brian Leiter is sharing the results of a survey on his blog to see which academic publishers are considered “best” in his field of philosophy. I find surveys like this useful — at least when carried out somewhat scientifically and systematically (which Leiter’s isn’t and doesn’t claim to be) — and I think these particular results are not too different from what an equivalent survey in other humanities fields might find.

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A few days after Aaron Swartz’s suicide — in part triggered by the prospect of a 35-year prison sentence for making a big stash of scholarly journal articles available to the public for free (!) — it is appropriate to think about what is wrong with the state of academic publishing today.

Here’s a for instance: I got an email today about a new issue of the journal Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture. It’s a special issue on “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology.” It looks great: 16 articles, totaling 170 pages, of theoretical writing, analysis, and conversations between artists, scholars, and activists from around the world. I’d love to read it and to recommend it to my students, who are studying the intersections between art, ecology, politics, and activism.

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Thinking out loud…

As I prepare to teach a course in the spring called “Media Ecologies and Cultural Politics,” I’m weighing out the benefits and risks of opening the course to an online audience.

This would involve sharing the syllabus online (though not the readings themselves, which would have to be purchased or “found” elsewhere) and moving some of our discussions to a public blog, as opposed to using the password-protected, registered-students-only Blackboard software (which many courses at this university now use).

It’s not an online course, and much of the class would still take place in a formal classroom setting. But my hope is that the public dimension could enrich class discussions both by allowing others (around the world) to participate to some extent, and by making our public conversation more accountable and potentially more meaningful. Seems to me that a commitment to open-access education calls for this sort of thing.

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When applying for a promotion — which generally means applying for Associate Professor status “with tenure,” or applying for Full Professor (the top of the heap) — an academic must use any tactics available to make a case for the value of his or her scholarly work.

In the good old days, at most institutions, this might not have taken much. In the humanities, a fairly common bar for getting tenure was having published a scholarly book; for full professor, a second one. But academic book publication is in transition and no longer as simple as it used to be. And peer-reviewed journal articles, still the standard in the “hard” sciences, are not going away; publish-or-perish remains the rule. View full article »