Environments of Modernity

A symposium about cultural and political agency in an era of global climate change


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions

Slought, University of Pennsylvania Department of English


Natalie Amleshi, Sam Waterman, Micah Del Rosario, Nicole Welk-Joerger, Aylin Malcom, Aaron Bartels-Swindells, Nick Millman, Orchid Tierney, Kerry McAuliffe, Rovel Sequeira


Paul Saint-Amour, Jed Esty

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

  • Environments
  • Media
  • Modernity

Slought and the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce "Environments of Modernity," a two-day symposium about cultural and political agency in an era of global climate change, on Thursday, March 22 and Friday, March 23, 2018. The event will feature talks by scholars John Durham Peters, Supriya Nair, Kate Marshall, Melody Jue, and Robin Nagle, and has been jointly organized by the Modernism and the Twentieth Century, Latitudes, and Anthropocene and Animal Studies reading groups at the University of Pennsylvania.

What does it mean to think about environment in the twenty-first century? Recent work across the humanities and social sciences has begun to destabilize our idea of the environment as a singular, universal, and natural context for life. As scholars envision a more radically interdependent relationship between the human and nonhuman, the meanings ascribed to terms like environment and environmentalism are shifting in ways linked to practices of capitalism and imperialism; dynamics of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion; and intensified digital networks and proliferating media objects.

"Environments of Modernity" brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to assess the cultural, historical, and political affordances of the environment concept for contemporary thought. As we come to appreciate the interdependence of humanity and environment, scholars are called upon to rethink the conditions of political and historical agency in the modern world. If the idea of a singular environment depends on the untenable idea of a singular humanity, then how can humanists and social scientists theorize environmentalisms responsive to the conflicting needs of individuals, communities, and species?

The symposium aims to develop new approaches that re-conceptualize both of its central terms, environment and modernity. What kinds of structures and phenomena comprise an environment—the natural world, media technologies and infrastructures, a mood or a feeling in the air? How do culture and aesthetic representation shape our understanding of environmental forces, and to what extent do cultural practices not only represent but also produce the environments of modernity?

For more information please visit: environmentsofmodernity.wordpress.com

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Opening Remarks: Natalie Amleshi, Micah Del Rosario, and Sam Waterman

Opening Address: John Durham Peters

Friday, March 23, 2017

Kate Marshall, "After Extinction: Fictionality between Literature and Science"

Supriya Nair, "Precarious Lives and the Animal Gaze"

Graduate Student Roundtable
Participants: Nicole Welk-Joerger, Knar Gavin, Ayodh Kamath, Martin Premoli, Alexis Rider
Moderator: Paul Saint-Amour

Melody Jue, "Fluid cuts: Surfactants as residual media after Deepwater Horizon"

Robin Nagle

Closing Roundtable with Penn Faculty
Participants: Etienne Benson, Rahul Mukherjee, Paul Saint-Amour, Bethany Wiggin
Moderator: Jed Esty

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