Content of the theme

Over the last decades the concept of the Anthropocene has gained currency, which has led to a new focus on the exploration of the complex links between human, animal, and environment. Living in an age so marked by human actions, preferences, and value systems that we are now faced with climate change on a planetary scale, endangering the long term survival of both human and animal life, calls for new approaches. Technical and scientific solutions need to be augmented with the combined insights from other research fields, in order to actively engage in the rethinking of definitions of nature, agency, materiality, and what it means to be human.

Based on an understanding of human and nonhuman ecologies in terms of the more-than-human, the theme approaches the humanities from this interdisciplinary perspective to forge reconfigurations and extensions of the field. It is in this respect that the Environmental Humanities come to the fore. This burgeoning field of studies engages creatively with sustainability issues, problematizes the ways in which the human has overstepped his mark and by so doing jeopardized the future of the entire planet. 

Environmental humanities are not only concerned with questions of value but aim to develop and extend the field of the humanities by challenging traditional notions of human exceptionalism in resituating the human within the environment, as an agent among other agents. At the heart of this enterprise is the theme’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaborations, where PhD students will be given both analytical and practical tools to develop and expand their research projects in order to engage creatively and critically with environmental questions both within and outside Academia.

Important issues on the agenda of the Environmental Humanities:

  • Faced with climate change and other environmental challenges, what can the Humanities contribute?
  • How can conceptual neologisms such as hyperobject, slow violence, transcorporeality, facilitate the understanding of changes we are witnessing right now?
  • How to understand and problematize the nature/culture divide?
  • In what ways can we understand, problematize and develop ideas of the Anthropocene, including thinking what we might call the “good” Anthropocene?
  • How can we imagine a colloboration (including expected contributions) between academic research and non-academic agencies?
  • What potential has the more-than-human or environmental humanities to change the field of the Humanities as such?

Year one: Autumn 2018 — Spring 2019

Course 1: Introduction to the Environmental Humanities, 5 ECTS, Autumn 2018

During the last decade or so attentiveness to the more-than-human has impacted the Humanities, which has led to a new focus on the exploration of the complex links between human, animal and environment. This interest in the more-than-human coincides with the awareness that we are living in the Anthropocene, an age so marked by human actions, preferences, and value systems that we are now faced with climate change on a planetary scale, endangering the longterm survival of both human and animal.

To meet these challenges, technical and scientific solutions need to be augmented with combined insights from many research fields, actively engaged in the rethinking and extension of notions of nature, agency, materiality and what it means to be human. In this regard, the humanities provide openings that can help us understand as well as change ways of thinking, value systems and practices, thereby enabling environmentally oriented activities. The course aspires to contribute both to our understanding of what is at stake in discussions of environmental issues and to extend and develop the humanities beyond their traditional framework. 

Course 2: Human Footprints, 5 ECTS, Spring 2019

Seen in light of what we refer to as the age of man, the course aims to analyze and problematize the role the human plays in the long term changes we are witnessing on our planet today. The course highlights the ways in which the humanities increasingly make use of the concept of the Anthropocene to question and challenge nature-culture dichotomies as well as the presumed exceptionalism of the human. How can we understand the changes in our environment through neologisms such as hyperobject, slow violence, transcorporeal bodies? How can we grasp and alter human roles and relations to the nonhuman in the Anthropocene?

The course draws attention to deep time perspectives, hauntologies, solidarity within and across generations, discussing the considerations between time perspectives made in nature- and cultural heritage studies. Posthuman, environmental and new material perspectives are of particular interest in this regard. The course concludes with a workshop led by prominent international scholars in the field (tentative location: Askö).

Year two: Autumn 2019 — Spring 2020

Course 3: More-Than-Human Relations, 5 ECTS, Autumn 2019

The last decade has involved a new understanding of the relations between human and environment. The linguistic turn has prompted a larger interest in materiality and its ramifications for contemporary life and our history. This new materialism has led to a critical discussion of human-nonhuman relations and this course aims to explore theoretical, empirical, and philosophical approaches to the more-than-human in Anthropocene thinking.

The course engages critically with posthuman theories, asking questions such as: How to understand and engage the spaces and networks that take place between the human and the more-than-human? How do they affect our perception of environmental challenges on a global scale, our reading of history and ethics? The course provides a historical background to humanist human-animal studies, leading up to the questions scholarship is grappling with today. Part of this inquiry is about relations between the nonhuman and the human, about questions of agency, rights, welfare, hospitality (networks of vulnerability and how to practice care), and extinction studies. This inquiry posits a challenge to traditional distinctions into nature and culture and aims to work through and rethink the line we draw between the natural sciences and the humanities. The course concludes with a science retreat (tentative location: Tovetorp)

Course 4: Imaging, Curating, Wording, Worlding, 5 ECTS, Spring 2020

Feminism, postcolonialism, and posthumanism all use critical, creative, and affirmative methods. In what ways can research contribute to change through imagining and engaging with the environment and civic society? How to move beyond traditional criticism in order to inspire and relate to novel ways of thinking (Haraway’s alterworlding)? Taking its point of departure in questions like these, the course aims to facilitate ethical engagement through the use of different creative and innovative methods in order to develop creative skills and strategies to communicate one’s research.

Students will be encouraged to develop and experiment with strategies that express their own research in relation to image, seminar production, curatorship, alternative narratives/academic writing. They may also come up with ideas how the general public can be involved in and contribute to research, for instance through the development of the civic arts and citizen science. The course will conclude with a workshop.


Theme coordinator: Associate professor Christina FredengrenDepartment of Archaeology and Classical Studies, in collaboration with Karin Dirke, Department of Culture and Aesthetics and Claudia Egerer, Department of English.