I would like to organize a roundtable for ASEH 2017 on the place of hope in researching and teaching environmental history. Chicago seems like an apposite place to have such a conversation, given its connection to the work and thought of President Barack Obama, author of The Audacity of Hope (2006). The time seems right, too, to revisit William Cronon’s 1993 call to imbue our writing and teaching with hopeful stories, given environmental history’s propensity to provoke feelings of despair and depression. How have we answered Cronon’s call in our books and lectures? How successful a campaign has it been? Have we fought the good fight against declensionism, and won? Or, given the ever-greater shadow cast by anthropogenic climate change, have you found it necessary to redouble your efforts — to tell more stories of hope, or different ones from those you told 5, 10, or 20 years ago? Through such a conversation, we can begin to map the current “geography of hope” (cf. Stegner 1969) in the field of environmental history.
I welcome not only reflections grounded in individual and/or communal experiences of research and teaching, but also attempts to engage with the growing theoretical literature on hope in the social sciences, the environmental humanities, and the emerging field of Anthropocene studies (e.g. Anderson 2006, Cameron 2013, Handley 2015, Head 2016). How might such discussions inform environmental historians' research and teaching? How might environmental historians bring unique insights to such discussions?
If you’re interested in participating, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as is convenient with a brief description of your proposed contribution. If there’s sufficient interest to put together a roundtable, we’ll assemble a proposal based on panellists' specific approaches and aspirations.
Thanks, and kind regards,
(Assistant professor of history, Simon Fraser University)
Anderson, Ben. “Becoming and being hopeful: towards a theory of affect.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24, no. 5 (2006): 733-752.
Cameron, Laura. “Resources of Hope: Wicken Fen Stories of Anthropogenic Nature.” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 31, no. 1 (2013): 105-118.
Cronon, William. “The Uses of Environmental History.” Environmental History Review 17, no. 3 (1993): 1-22.
Handley, George. “The Shape of Hope.” Edge Effects (blog), December 10, 2015. http://edgeeffects.net/the-shape-of-hope/ .
Head, Lesley. Hope and Grief in the Anthropocene: Re-conceptualising Human-Nature Relations. London: Routledge, 2016.
Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Crown Publishers, 2006.
Stegner, Wallace. “Coda: Wilderness Letter.” In The Sound of Mountain Water. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1969.