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Environmental Cultural Studies

Environmental cultural studies (ECS) searches for a multidimensional understanding of pressing issues that affect human communities, material environments, and the larger biotic communities on which the reproduction of human life has always depended. ECS views “culture” and “nature” not as separate entities but as entangled and hybrid realms. ECS is particularly interested in how semiotic and material processes connect and transcend each other within these nature-culture relations. We look at how culture and politics not only produce natures and environments (at once materially and semiotically), but also at how organic and inorganic substances move through matter, ecosystems, and bodies, affecting the ways people think, act, and organize. This leads us to see that we cannot protect ourselves without protecting nature, and that we cannot protect nature by separating it from ourselves, because it is only through the understanding of all forms of interconnectedness (human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic) that proper conceptual frames and strategies can be elaborated. In the process of elaborating this understanding, different fields of inquiry meet.

 

Everything that happens around us is mediated not only by humans and their institutions, but also by viruses, ecosystems, and things: “earth beings,” such as mountains (de la Cadena), and technological artifacts. We need to relearn new ways of thinking from the people who have retained and rebuilt their relationships with the nonhuman realm. These relationships come with diverse forms of mutual “understanding” and constitute the dynamics of each place. A multispecies vision involves a polyphonic attention to the various movements and interactions of forms of life and matter over time. Multispecies ethnographies show that these interactions are much more complex than the vision of “man against nature,” and that nature often mediates social and political developments in ways that are habitually unaccounted for.

Articles about the Project

  • "Environmental Cultural Studies as Transdisciplinary Field: Latin American and Iberian Studies" with Daniel Ares. Introduction to Environmental Cultural Studies; Latin American and Iberian Studies. Ed. Kata Beilin, Kathleen Connolly and Micah McKay. Hispanic Issues on Line. 2019.

  • "Estudios culturales-ambientales ibéricos: fundamentos teóricos y conceptos clave" (Environmental Cultural Studies: Theoretical Foundations and Key Concepts) Daniel Ares and Kata Beilin. Invited. Letras hispanas. Special Issue on “Contemporary Iberian Ecocriticism and New Materialisms.” Vol. 13, December, 2017.

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