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Political Ecologies: Nature, Place, Heritage

Organizers Heading link

Ralph Cintrón, English & Latino and Latin American Studies
Molly Doane, Department of Anthropology
Beate Geissler, Art
Ömür Harmanşah, Art History
Rachel Havrelock, English

The Political Ecologies Working Group is a cross-disciplinary platform for faculty and students interested in engaging with questions that relate to social movements, the environment, biodiversity, ecological activism, human rights, cultural heritage, environmental justice, and public humanities. It responds to the desire of UIC faculty and students for engagement and collaboration with local communities in the global contexts of development.

Working Group organizers have set up a web page that can serve as the public face of the group, a place where we can post announcements, post short blog entries, run discussions etc. Please send Omur ( materials when you’d like to post them.

Please visit their page:

Can a River be a Person? Indigeneity, Law, and Climate Change

Click here to register!

November 1

This workshop brings together scholars, lawyers, and activists to explore the concept of environmental rights. Western ontology enshrines a distinction between life (bios) and nonlife (geos), and between persons and property. In this system the earth is already dead.  Putting legal scholars, indigenous lawyers, and native theorists in conversation with each other, participants will explore the possibilities of a future ontology. This exciting workshop will feature a plenary talk by Elizabeth Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University.

9 – 9:30

Welcome and introductions

10 – 12
Perspectives on the Environment

Moderator: Ralph Cintrón, English & Latin American and Latino Studies

1:  Bernard Perley, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
2:  Michael Barsa, Pritzer School of Law, Northwestern University
3:  Gwendolyn Gordon, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
4:  Molly Doane, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago
5:  Hayley Negrin, History, University of Illinois at Chicago

12 – 1

1 – 2:30
Case Study: the Rights of Manoomin (Wild Rice)

Moderator: Casey Corcoran, English, University of Illinois at Chicago

Richard Monette, Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Frank Bibeau, Tribal Attorney
Mari Margil, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

2:30 -3

3 – 5
Elizabeth Povinelli, Anthropology and Gender Studies, Columbia University
Introducer: Molly Doane, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago

5 -6

Click here to register!


Political Ecologies Reading Group

Monday, May 6, 2019 from 4 – 6 PM

The political ecologies working group will have its last meeting on May 6 from 4-6 at the Institute of the Humanities.  Refreshments will be served. This is the last meeting of the semester in preparation for the Frontiers Workshop on November 1.  It gathering follows meetings in 2018-19 that covered Povinelli’s Geontologies and anthropology’s recent interests in “personhood.”  This meeting will shift to legal theory. We will read three essays that examine recent innovations in environmental law.  In “Should Trees Have Legal Standing—Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects” the legal theorist Christopher Stone extends to nonhuman entities democracy’s controversial foundations in rights.  In “Environmental Personhood” Gwendolyn Gordon examines the historical and contemporary evolution of that legal tradition and exposes its ontological, philosophical, and political problems. “Climate Change Could Destroy His Home in Peru” recently appeared in the New York Times Magazine and examines in journalistic fashion a specific use of rights discourse as found in tort law.  Professor Michael Barsa, who teaches property law and environmental law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, will be leading the discussion.  Anyone interested in sorting through these alternatives is welcome.

Gökçe Günel: A Seascape of Power

Wednesday, 4/10 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Gökçe Günel
School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies
University of Arizona

Many countries around the world are having difficulty in meeting rising power demands, and employ quick energy generation mechanisms to satisfy the needs of their populations. One such technology is powerships — repurposed ships that serve as mobile power generators. Currently, the only commercial producer of powerships is a Turkish company that converts second-hand ships into floating power plants in shipyards in Tuzla, Istanbul. Floating power plants attach themselves to national grids, and using fuel oil and natural gas, produce inexpensive electricity for countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Ghana, Zambia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Indonesia. For instance, the powership in Ghana currently provides 23% of the country’s electricity. Drawing on fieldwork in Turkey and various parts of Africa, this talk will analyze how powership company representatives set up thick relations with governments in Africa, explore the shipyards where ships are manufactured, and investigate the use of a floating power plant in Ghana.

Co-sponsored with the Department of Anthropology

Political Ecologies Reading Group

Monday, April 1, 2019 from 4 – 6 PM 

Kohn, “How Forests Think”
Kopenawa, “The Falling Sky”
Scott, “The Anthropology of Ontology”
A quick description of the readings:

Kohn’s chapter, “The Living Thought” from How Forests Think uses Peirce’s semiotic theory and evolutionary biology to provide a rationalist account for explaining animist world views.  Kopenawa’s text is a Yanomami account of the Amazonian forest. Scott’s critique of the recent turn to ontology in anthropology and other disciplines is a searing evaluation of the shortcomings of ontological lines of inquiry.  Juxtaposing the claims of these three readings provides more detail for understanding what underlies Povinelli’s Geontologies, our first reading.  Our final meeting for the semester will turn to legal theory and recent innovations in environmental law.  All readings are in preparation for the Frontiers Workshop to be held Nov. 1. 2019 and tentatively titled: “Can a River Be a Person?  Indigenous Groups, Legal Theorists, and Marxists Confront Climate Change.”

All are welcome.  Snacks will be served.

Political Ecologies Working Group Meeting

Dear Members of the Political Ecologies Working Group:

As some of you may know, we have an event occurring on November 1, 2019.  That event will be a Frontiers Workshop sponsored by the Institute of the Humanities.  The current title for the workshop is: “Can a River Be a Person? Indigenous Groups, Legal Theorists, and Marxists Confront Climate Change.”  We will be bringing a number of speakers to UIC. In order to prepare for the event we will be running a set of reading groups. Our first meeting will be Monday, February 25 from 4-6 at the Institute. Snacks will be provided. Since Elizabeth Povinelli will be a featured speaker, we are starting with selections from Elizabeth Povinelli’s Geontologies.

If you have any questions, please direct them to Ralph Cintron,

We will be discussing selections from Elizabeth Povinelli’s Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2016)

Reading Selections: Chapters 1, “The Three Figures of Geontology,” and 7, “Late Liberal Geontopower”

Conversation with Turkish filmmaker Can Canden on “Nuclear alla Turca”

Conversation with Turkish filmmaker Can Canden on “Nuclear alla Turca,” a Documentary Film Project-in-Development on Turkey’s Nuclear Adventures

Wednesday, 1/23 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Ever since ‘the clouds of Chernobyl’ passed above Turkey in 1986, political leaders have tried to deceive the public on the risks of radiation by proclaiming that radiation did not have any negative health effects. The amalgamation of the ‘alla turca-ness’ and the absurdity of their statements–such as ‘a little bit of radiation is good for you’, ‘radioactive tea tastes better’, ‘radiation is good for the bones’, ‘the household propane tank in your kitchen is as risky as nuclear,’—along with stories about the nuclear history of Turkey since the 1930s, have given birth to this tragicomical documentary. In Nuclear alla Turca, we will hear these little-known stories from those who have had first-hand experiences, and as well as witnesses, experts, activists, and politicians among others.

The filmmaker’s aim is to bring this discussion forward into the public sphere, telling the untold and veiled nuclear history of Turkey.

Facebook Event Link:

Co-sponsor: School of Art and Art History

Exhibit Opening Reception: All Have The Same Breath

Friday, 1/18 5:00 – 8:00 PM

Join us in celebrating the opening of All have the same breath  at  Gallery 400. This interdisciplinary exhibition will be on view at Gallery 400 from January 18-March 9, 2018.

All have the same breath emerges out of a two-year interdisciplinary, collaborative project in which groups of anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, artists, geographers, and scientists, have been investigating the politics of the environment and how the changing climate is experienced and negotiated across the world. The exhibition considers our relationship to the earth, and how that relationship is mediated by outside forces. The title signals the vital importance of acknowledging that all things—human, animal, vegetable, and mineral—are dependent on the same ecosystem and, indeed, breath the same air. The artists in All have the same breath give visual expression to the lived realities of those experiencing a changing landscape across the globe. Rather than engaging with the politics and rhetoric of climate change, All have the same breath raises urgent questions about how the global environmental crisis is experienced, felt, and visualized.

Major support for All have the same breath is provided by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support both to this project and the Political Ecologies Working Group is provided by the UIC Institute for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the School of Art & Art History, the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Political Ecology in Practice: Fieldworkers Workshop [A Humanities Without Walls Project]

April 20-21, 2018

Location: The Great Space, Art Building 5th Floor, 400 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60607

Supported by the Institute for the Humanities, Political Ecologies Working Group and the Humanities Without walls Consortium grants.

Goal: This workshop will bring together the HWW Project “Political Ecology as Practice: A Regional Approach to the Anthropocene” Project participants and fieldworkers together to discuss field objectives, field methods, and the 2019 Gallery 400 exhibition that will result from them. It will comprise semi-structured presentations of fieldwork that has already happened in Pakistan’s Hunza Valley and Chicago’s urban gardens. Six other field initiative will take place in the Late Spring and Summer of 2018. This is the final chance for the fieldworkers and participants will come together to exchange ideas and compare field research objectives.

We will share: Fieldwork guide (field protocols) booklet with everyone + Exhibition pamphlet draft + Rite in the Rain Field notebooks (for Fieldworkers only)

April 20, 2018  
Friday Morning: (10 AM – 12:30 PM) 

Please note: ONLY Friday AM presentations will be public.

Semi-structured presentations

·   10:00 Presentation of progress on the web publication of Latour’s Master Class- emerging ideas. Summary of wine and white board meeting. (Ömür Harmanşah)

·   10:30 Presentation of the ongoing work on the design of the January 2019 Exhibition and guidelines for fieldworkers (Tamara Becerra Valdez + Pınar Üner Yılmaz)

·   1: 00 Presentation on Pakistan Hunza Valley field season (Javairia Shahid)

·   11: 30 Presentation on Chicago urban gardens fieldwork (Molly Doane)

·   12:00-12:30 Discussion, Q + A

12:30-2 pm Lunch (sandwiches and drinks will be served)

Friday Afternoon (2 PM – 4:30 PM)

2:00 pm. Break into small groups of 7 different field projects. Each group will be chaired by Field coordinators. The groups work on the goals, objectives and methodologies specific for their fieldwork. Discuss practicalities.

4:00 pm Reconvene: Presentation of the Field Guide (Omur + Tamara + Pinar)

4:30 End of day program.

April 21, 2018
Saturday Morning (10 AM – 12 PM)

9:30 am Coffee and pastries

10:00 Closing panel. Opens with 5 minute presentations of each field coordinator summarizing Friday afternoon conversations. What is innovative and creative fieldwork? Open panel to follow.

12 pm. End of day program and departures

Political Ecology in Practice: Fieldworkers Workshop

April 17, 2018: 11 AM – 12 PM

Meeting to discuss April 20-21 “Political Ecology in Practice: Fieldworkers Workshop”

Political Ecologies Event: Briefing Master Class with Latour: Brecht: The Life of Galileo Redux

January 22, 2018 from 5 – 7 PM

Political Ecology as Practice: A Regional Approach to the Anthropocene

November 3-4, 2017

Location:  Jane Addams Hull House, 800 South Halsted Street

Organized by Ömür Harmanşah, UIC Art History and Molly Doane, UIC, Anthropology

This workshop will investigate the reciprocal relationship and the disjunction between the metropolitan theories of the Anthropocene, climate change, and the global environmental crisis on the one side; and the experience of local ecological conflicts in various micro-regions around the world, on the other. The central research question to be collectively addressed will be whether the current vibrant theories of the academic/metropolitan center derive from or get inspired by the multiplicity of regional ecological conflicts experienced today. Conversely we ask, in what particular ways, these theories impact various human communities in their relationship to their land, its resources, biodiversity, and heritage. The workshop will invite participants to discuss global theories of the Anthropocene and its new ontologies of time and materiality, while investigating their links to regional practices and discourses. The workshop includes presentations by UIC faculty and graduate students who will present comparative studies of place-based politics of the environment in regional contexts, delivering the results from their fieldwork in diverse landscapes. These fieldwork initiatives are developed from existing projects of graduate students and faculty at UIC and the collaborating institution(s).

The workshop is designed in conjunction with a Humanities Without Walls award and a joint invitation to Bruno Latour, leading figure in Science and Technology Studies and Professor at Sciences Po (Paris), by the UIC Political Ecologies Working Group and the UIC School of Art and Art History.  The workshop takes place following a Master Class by Bruno Latour and is meant to complement the conversations and the collaborative work taking place.


Sponsored by a Humanities Without Walls Consortium Grant, and UIC units:

Institute for the Humanities; Office of the Dean, ADA College; English; Art and Art History; the Department of Anthropology

Nov 3, 2017

9:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks

Mark Canuel (UIC, Director Institute for the Humanities) – Welcome Remarks

Ömür Harmanşah (UIC, Department of Art History) – Introduction: Political Ecology as Practice: A Regional Approach to the Anthropocene 

9:15 AM – 12:00 PM Plenary Session:  Four Analytical Frameworks for the Anthropocene

Molly Doane (UIC, Anthropology) Chair and moderator-Political ecology from a sociocultural anthropology perspective

David Wise (UIC, Biological Sciences and Institute for Environmental Science and Policy) Ecological Perspectives of Space and Place in the Anthropocene: An Example from Socio-Ecological Research   

Beate Geissler (UIC, Art) – Hopium Economy

Ralph Cintron (UIC, English and Latin American and Latino Studies) – Mine-Yours-Ours-Theirs: A Preliminary Inquiry into Property Relations in the Anthropocene 

Panel discussion – moderated by Molly Doane

1:30 Reporting from the Field I: Agriculture, Land, and Climate Change

Tannya Islas (UIC, Latin American and Latino Studies) – Working in and through Climate Change: Agricultural Landscapes in Coamiles, Nayarit, Mexico.

Charles Corwin (UIC, Urban Planning and Policy) Knowledge Production and Practice in Industrial Row Crop Farming, Northern Illinois 

Katy Dye (UIC, Department of Anthropology) Climate Change as State Discourse: Conjuring Climate in Bolivia’s Water Crisis. 

Molly Doane (UIC, Anthropology) – Cultivating Chicago: Gardens as Ecological Infrastructures.

2:30 Discussant: Christopher Boyer (UIC, History and Latin American and Latino Studies)

Panel discussion moderated by Christopher Boyer

3:30 Coffee

4:00 Intervention I: Challenges of the Anthropocene

Tracey Heatherington (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Anthropology) – Assisted Abundance: Viable Ontologies for a Climate Resilient

Max Berkelhammer (UIC, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) The challenges of detecting global change: Examples from the land, sea and air 

Panel discussion 

 Nov 4: Saturday Morning

9:00 Reporting from the Field II: Disposable Landscapes

Javairia Shahid (UIC, Art History) – Place, Heritage and Resistance in the Wakhan Corridor, Pakistan 

Ian Baird (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Geography), Kanokwan Manorom (Ubon Ratchathani University), Aurore Phenow (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Sirasak Gaja-Svasti(Ubon Ratchathani University), What about the Tributaries of the Tributaries? Fish Migrations, Fisheries, Dams and Local Knowledge along the Sebok River in Northeastern Thailand. 

Alize Arıcan (UIC, Anthropology), The Third Bridge and Northern Forests of Istanbul: A Case of Ecological Resistance. 

Ömür Harmanşah (UIC, Art History)- Disposable Landscapes, Disposable Lives: The Political Ecology of Water in Central Turkey 

10:00 Discussant: Sinan Erensü (Northwestern, Buffett Institute for Global Studies)

Panel discussion moderated by Sinan Erensü

10:45 Coffee

11:00 Final Remarks and Keynote Speech

Bruno Latour (Sciences Po, Paris) Brecht: The Life of Lovelock (40 minutes)

12:15 Lunch

Saturday November 4th, Afternoon

1:00 Field Trip to Southeast Environmental Task Force (South Side of Chicago) and the Calumet River, Petcoke Site

Intervention II: Ecology, Art, and Activism

Conversation at Southeast Environmental Task Force: Petcoke: Tracing Dirty Energy

Speakers: Peggy Salazar (Southeast Environmental Task Force) Brian Holmes (artist) and Terry Evans (artist) (40 minutes)

Moderator: Beate Geissler (UIC, Art)

Guided Walk: Calumet River Industrial Landscape and the Petcoke Site

Political Ecologies Working Group Meeting

September 11, 2017 from 5 – 7 PM

Updates on HWW Grant and Pakistan fieldwork summer 2017