The 2019-2020 lecture series “Unsettling Ecologies” is a combination of the English Department Lecture Series, the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies program, and the Environmental Studies program, and is meant to spark conversation across campus about climate change. English professor and Lecture committee member Nathan Snaza said the committee thought they could use this year’s series to bring together students, staff, faculty, and community members who care about climate change.  

“This series is a response to the questions our students are raising in our classes, in our offices, in their discussions online – questions that might feel distant or abstract to some of us who are older, but that feel like a matter, quite literally, of life or death to young folks,” Sanza said. 

The lecture series includes diverse faculty speakers from a variety of disciplines, meant to reflect how environmental issues and climate change require interdisciplinary approaches. Nancy Tuana is a professor of philosophy and gender studies who has conducted important work in environmental feminist philosophy. Dana Luciano is an influential queer theorist and literary critic in the U.S., and is part of the editorial collective of the journal Resilience, one of the central journals in the environmental humanities. Snaza said Tuana and Luciano are both scholars he cites in a lot of his own work, and whose work students have found particularly important and provocative.

Snaza also said Neel Ahuja, author of Bioinsecurities, has some of the most cutting-edge interdisciplinary work he’s ever encountered while Kai Bosworth, an assistant professor at VCU, is doing incredible things around Standing Rock which offers a compelling and inspirational mode of activism.

Although this topic is one that has faced struggles with getting people to care, Snaza believes that's where art, literature, film, and experimental kinds of public interventions come in. He senses that students will be engaged in the discussion and hopes they take away a greater understanding of the immediacy of the problem and learn how to apply this knowledge in larger shifts.

“I think we're interested in really highlighting how philosophy, literature, and art have a crucial role to play in how all of us approach these matters,” Snaza said. “We need science–unquestionably–and we have a LONG way to go in the US in convincing people that science is important – but ultimately the political question is less about rational, conceptual thought than about how people feel and emotionally attach themselves to these issues.”

The lecture series starts October 24 with Dana Luciano’s talk on Melville’s Anthropocenes and will continue through April of next year.