Beyond Beauty: Exploring the Environmental Humanities is a series of public discussions with leading scholars from the National Humanities Center and Brooke Andrade, director of the Center’s library. These informal dialogues ask: How do humanities scholars approach environmental topics? How does their work complement and complicate the work of scientists? And what does their research, analysis, writing, and teaching add to the ways we understand environmental issues?

Join us for these public discussions with leading environmental humanists as we explore how they became interested in their fields, what fuels their passion for their subjects, the questions that intrigue and perplex them, and the ways their work influences how they think about the world.

Meeting Room A

  • National Parks in Colombia
    January 19, 2019
    2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
    - Nature, Citizenship, and the Creation of Colombia’s National Parks

    Claudia Leal Associate professor at the Department of History at Universidad de los Andes.
    Leal’s project focuses on four emblematic cases to tell the story of national parks in Colombia as a process of territorial state building. Parks show how the state, through efforts to manage and create a national territory, reconfigures itself and produces space. It does so by extending its reach into new places and by accepting a new responsibility—caring for nature—that widens its scope. Such physical and conceptual expansion redefines citizenship and alters state legitimacy. Through an ethnography of the state at the local and national level, this environmental history reconstructs the building of national natures in Latin America.

    Leal holds a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California at Berkeley, but passes for a historian who likes to think about the environment. Although she identifies with mountains, she has done most of her research on rainforest regions and on the role of “race” in the process of nation building in Latin America. 

  • Conservation and Controversy
    January 26, 2019
    2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
    - Forty-Seven Percent of the West: Congressional Conservation During the Long Progressive Era

    Joseph E. Taylor III , Professor of History Simon Fraser University
    Taylor’s project “47 Percent of the West” traces Congressional negotiations over federal conservation legislation from 1890 to 1939, especially the revenues from federal lands. By addressing the full scope of concerns animating House and Senate members during the long Progressive Era, it speaks to past and current narratives about western federal lands, an issue that has sparked growing violence during the last four decades. By revisiting the legislative process, it also reminds readers that a political economy has always inhered in these lands, and that conservation was about both preventing environmental abuse and promoting social services by federal, state, and county governments.

    Joseph trained as an Americanist. His primary fields of research have been the North American West and environmental history. He has published scholarly articles and books on the history of the fisheries, outdoor recreation, gentrification, and conservation. His digital mapping project, titled “Follow the Money,” can be found at, and he has written for High Country News, BlogWest, and news media.

  • Imagining A Brighter Future
    February 2, 2019
    2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
    - Imagining A Brighter Future: Indigenous Traditions and Climate Fictions

    Joni Adamson Professor, English and Environmental Humanities, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
    In Joni Adamson’s new book, she looks to connect the work in her first book, on global indigenous oral traditions and environmental justice, to her recent work on indigenous cosmopolitical movements for intergenerational justice and her contributions to the expanding subfields of multispecies ethnography, biosemiotics, and food cultures, food literatures and film, and food justice. In particular, she is exploring how global indigenous communities have claimed the relevance of “cosmovisions” or “futurisms” for their own social justice and environmental movements. She also is exploring how creative works in these arenas emerge from ancient cosmologies, then often take the form of speculative or climate fictions and films (recently dubbed “cli-fi”) that advocate for plausible, desirable futures, or “futures we want,” rather than futures that devolve into apocalypse.

    Adamson directs the Environmental Humanities Initiative (EHI) at the Wrigley Institute and ASU’s undergraduate Environmental Humanities Certificate. She is the author and/or co-editor of many books and volumes that helped to establish and expand the environmental humanities and environmental studies

  • The Lasting Environmental Impact of the Great War
    February 9, 2019
    2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
    - A Global Environmental History of the First World War

    Tait Keller Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College
    Keller’s new book, Green and Grim, will be the first global environmental history of the Great War, focusing on how energy geopolitics linked the battle lines and home fronts with industry and agriculture in ways that transformed the environment around the world. In 1914, agriculture, industry, and warfare formed a violent triad geared for the production of destruction. While combat caused devastation, the resulting damage to nature was short-lived. Major environmental change occurred behind the lines, away from the killing fields. By understanding how warfare and energy extraction coevolved over the course of the First World War we can better appreciate the intersections of armed conflict, human victimization, and environmental exploitation during the twentieth century.

    Tait Keller is an Associate Professor of History and former Director of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. His research focuses on environmental change in times of crisis and conflict. He is currently working on his book project, A Global Environmental History of the First World War, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, the European Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Keller has given invited lectures in Africa, India, Turkey, across Europe, and throughout the United States. He earned his BA in History at the University of Rochester and his MA in German and European Studies and PhD in History at Georgetown University.

  • Endangered Species, Imperiled Ways of Life
    February 23, 2019
    2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    - Endangered Species, Imperiled Ways of Life

    Julie Velásquez Runk Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Georgia & Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    Runk’s current project, “Entangled Rosewood” uses loss as a means to reflect on who we are (being) and how we are in relationship with others and place (belonging). Runk argues that Panama’s volatile rosewood logging, following Chinese demand, challenged indigenous Wounaan to confront marginalization from rocketing economic growth and assert powerful ideas around being and belonging. Assembling years of data—histories, stories, logging permits, port data, video walks, and museum photos—she confronts the separation of Amerindian reality from globalization and politics. This collaborative book project illustrates radical hope within ontological precarity and reveals global processes that shape disparity and struggles for equality.

    Velásquez' research uses interdisciplinary approaches to how people use and manage their landscapes, how that relates to science, conservation, indigenous knowledge, and policy, and how people cope with variability and change. She grounds this work in political ecology, science and technology studies, human geography, environmental humanities, and collaboration.

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