Thursdays are special at the JHI. Our Fellows meet to share lunch and talk about their research in an open, supportive forum that always generates an interesting discussion. The first lunch for our 2019-2020 year got the ball rolling with introductions and short synopses of research projects related to our annual theme– Strange Weather– which explores questions and themes around climate change.
Alan Ackerman’s and Ben Akrigg’s projects focus on energy and the economy, although in different contexts. Alan’s research focuses on 19th century American literature and the climatological impact of the transition from an economy fuelled by traditional energy sources to one reliant on fossil fuels. Ben’s research explores the environmental impact of energy technologies in Athens in the first millennium BC.
Climate change and settlement/ migration feature in the work of Khaled Abu Jayyab and Almeera Khalid. Khaled’s research investigates how settlement organization and subsistence strategies in the southeastern Caucasus were affected by climate change during late prehistory. Almeera’s project investigates the intersection of climate change and current day migration. How are climate refugees considered in current refugee models? What can we do to ensure that the needs of climate refugees are being met? Almeera will focus a gender lens on her research, as well as consider vulnerable populations.
Public Studio, the collaborative art practice of filmmaker Elle Flanders and architect Tamira Sawatzky, will undertake the final phase of a project which began in 2017 with a 900km hike along the Bruce trail. “Unsettled” will be a large-scale multimedia project examining a few issues around the Saugeen Ojibwe Nation: indigenous fishing rights and the restocking of Georgian bay with genetically modified fish for commercial and sports fishing, the planned nuclear waste repository by Bruce Power on indigenous territory and Griffin Island, the private hunting lodge home to corporate executives and politicians. In addition to their video work, they’ll produce a graphic novel incorporating their research and personal journals from their walk.
Harnessing, extracting and managing resources figure in several projects. Judith Brunton’s research employs an environmental humanities focus to examine the culture of values, morals and resource extraction around the oil sands. She’ll explore what it means to “live the good life” in Alberta and what climate change means for the future of Albertans.
Andrew Brown’s project uses digital tools to track how inhabitants of the early modern Atlantic world saw water as a resource to be used and carefully managed in the face of environmental and climatic pressures. Aisha Assan-Lebbe explores 19th century North American interest in controlling weather through ideas such as cloud seeding. Bhavani Raman’s project uses archival documents and digital technology to explore the making (and unmaking) of lands (poramboke) around the city of Chennai – a city that is very vulnerable to climate change with cycles of drought and flood. Her research will intersect law, ecology and property over the last 240 years. Julie Zatzman’s qualitative study investigates the response to the 1992 collapse of northern cod stocks off the coast of Atlantic Canada by the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island and an Acadian community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the context of the subsequent restructuring of the fishery by the Canadian government. She’ll examine why some communities took progressive action to privatize fishing, yet others did not.
Stephanie Bernhard will focus on public-facing essays that explore how what we learn affects the way we live and how that’s affected by the urgency of climate change. Her research encompasses ancient epics such as Gilgamesh and the Aeneid to contemporary science fiction. Olive Scott’s project considers how Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations viewed climate and weather phenomena and how this view could be incorporated into a modern perspective of the climate crisis to better understand how society should view and interact with nature.
Responses to natural phenomena and the climate feature in the research of Mark Cheetham and Chiara Graf. Mark’s project explores articulations of the arctic, the Franklin voyages, and interactions with Inuit cultures by British explorers. These explorers returned with news about strange phenomena in the arctic, fuelling an ongoing debate about climate change in the 19th century. Chiara’s research looks at the works of Seneca, specifically text on meteorology affects expressed and induced by phenomena, ethical action and our placement in the universe in relation to natural phenomena.
Daniel McNeil will be working on a couple of projects at the intersection of environmental humanities and critical race studies. His first project will examine migration and stereotypes in performance and culture, paying particular attention to the distribution of energy and interest around the term ‘climate refugees’. Daniel’s second project analyses the shape and contours of official and corporate multiculturalism in Canada as well as the politics and poetics of convivial multicultures that work within, across and against the nation-state.
Ethics is a focus of some of this year’s research. Zachary Rosen’s project looks at climate change as an ethical and environmental justice issue, seeking to understand the individual, international and intergenerational obligations to contribute to a solution. Olivia Smith examines climate change as an ethical problem. Her research explores how we can reconceptualize ourselves in an international sphere to meet our ethical obligations with regard to climate change when currently there’s a moral vacuum.
Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark will explore Anishinaabe political thought and governance models expressed through relationships with Creation. Indigenous nations have long had to contend with climate change and radical transformation of creation. This project focuses on unearthing Anishinaabe governance principles rooted in Anishinaabe philosophies and values pertaining to relationships with creation that shape and guide how we live with each other and other beings in this world. Building on previous work with Zagime First Nation, this research invokes traditional Anishinaabe knowledge and political principles to build an understanding of Anishinaabe governance and organizational structures that are focused on land management plans, and the development of water and hunting councils.