Environmental Studies 4120 & English 4970 -- Fall 2016
Cultural Studies and Climate Change
“We know the (ecological) catastrophe is possible, probable even,
yet we do not believe it will really happen.” Slavoj Žižek
Yeb Sano, Philippines negotiator, speaking to the 2013 UN Climate Change Convention 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw
2016 will likely be the hottest year ever recorded, following 2015 and 2014, which set previous records. Now is a time of dire emergency for the Earth, a time when drastic and dramatic measures must be taken so that our planet remains habitable.
A cultural studies approach to understanding the challenge of climate change can foster a deeper understanding of the human social systems that cause it and possibilities for meaningful action.
Cultural studies draws on cultural, political, and economic theory to analyze discourse, culture, and behavior with a view toward voice and democratic participation. Cultural studies includes critical examination of the production and flow of culture in national and international capitalism, the naturalization and reproduction of inequality, as well as political resistance and the rise of traditional and new social movements.
This course brings together critical theory and tools from the humanities and social sciences to consider: 1) the history, politics, and ethics of global warming; 2) imagined representations of warming in the future and their relevance to the present; and, 3) ways to mobilize people to address climate change via social movements.
Geologists now identify our geological epoch as the Anthropocene, a time when our planet is dominated by humanity. But that domination is not equal among all people. A cultural studies perspective might more specifically say we are living in the Capitalocene; as Jason Moore describes:
The Anthropocene makes for an easy story. Easy, because it does not challenge the naturalized inequalities, alienation, and violence inscribed in modernity’s strategic relations of power and production. It is an easy story to tell because it does not ask us to think about these relations at all. The mosaic of human activity in the web of life is reduced to an abstract Humanity: a homogeneous acting unit. Inequality, commodification, imperialism, patriarchy, racial formations, and much more, have been largely removed from consideration. ... Are we really living in the Anthropocene, with its return to a curiously Eurocentric vista of humanity, and its reliance on well-worn notions of resource- and technological-determinism? Or are we living in the Capitalocene, the historical era shaped by relations privileging the endless accumulation of capital? (Capitalocene)
This new course, designed to meet requirements of WMU's new minor in Climate Change, is experimental and the syllabus provisional and under development.
Since the class is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. Missing any classes will affect your learning. Missing 3 classes or more will lower your grade and missing 5 classes may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning!
Your final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments,
listed and weighted below.
1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus. Bring any questions about the syllabus and assignments to class.
2. Join our class phone message system, Remind by sending this message, "@akgge" to this number "81010" using your cell phone (your cell phone number will remain private, you can also send the message to 5863590468).
Part I: Climate Justice: History, Economics, Politics and Ethics
Mon. Sep 19: Wikipedia Weekend: Cultural Studies, Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Globalization, and Neoliberalism
[Learn how to read Wikipedia, including history and talk pages! Create questions to guide discussion that help us understand key ideas about the topic, and, also questions that asks us to think in complex ways, make connections, etc. ]