Humanities for the Environment North American Observatory Update: West Cluster

“Toward a Just and Sustainable Future” is the theme of the West Cluster of the Humanities for the Environment (HfE) project, one of the collaborative projects incubated by CHCI member organizations and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The West Cluster, which is one of three U.S. clusters that form the HfE project’s North American Observatory, is based at Arizona State University’s Institute for Humanities Research, where project leader Sally Kitch is now joined by Professor Joni Adamson as co-P.I. During the first half of 2013, Kitch and Adamson defined major themes for three workshops that constitute the core of the cluster’s work—human responsibility, multi-species relationships, and forms of collaborative knowledge and collective action in/for the Anthropocene. Every Steering Committee invitee agreed to serve.  The 18-member committee is about evenly divided between ASU scholars and scholars from other universities, including the University of Illinois, Michigan State University, and two University of California campuses.

Two planning meetings were held with Steering Committee members (May 3-6, 2013 and June 6-9, 2013) to identify the overarching questions the cluster needs to address in order to define challenges for humanities in addressing sustainability issues.  Synthesizing the meeting results, they developed guiding questions and outcomes for each workshop and volunteered for roles in each workshop.  Finally, having developed the agenda for Workshop I, “Imagining Communities, Technologies, Responsibilities, and Justice in the Anthropocene” (scheduled for November 7-10, 2013), they outlined additional workshops based on the same model.

Each workshop will begin with a talk by a major speaker, supported by a President’s Initiative grant from Arizona State University, followed by time for the Steering Committee to interact with that speaker.  The agenda identifies guiding questions for the workshop sub-sessions; the discussions will be moderated by workshop consultants, and time is allowed to formulate answers and responses to key questions.  Workshop II is planned for February 2014, and Workshop III will take place in the fall of 2014.