Environmental Humanities

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‘In our exclusively social contracts, we have dropped the bonds that attach us to the world, those that bind temporality to temperature, time to weather, those that put social sciences and physics, history and geography, law and nature, politics and physics, into relation; the bond that directs our language to silent, passive, obscure things that because of our excesses take back their voice, presence, activity, light. We can no longer neglect it.’ (Michel Serres)

The Environmental Humanities are a diverse and emergent field of cross-disciplinary research that seeks to analyze and investigate the complex interrelationships between human activity (cultural, economic, and political) and the environment, understood in its broadest sense. Global environmental questions are increasing at the heart of academic and political debate. Analyzing and addressing environmental issues requires an understanding of the reciprocal relationship between nature and culture, between sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  This is important not only in order to insert environmental issues more centrally into the humanities, as a fascinating and urgent intellectual enterprise.   It is equally important for scientists to be cognizant of the way in which human culture shape environmental impacts, environmental debates and regulation of all kinds. 

Research in the Environmental Humanities at Oxford is undertaken by a wide range of individual scholars, research groups, and large-scale projects, and is supported by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), the Smith School, and the Faculties of English, History, Geography, Music, the African Studies Centre, and the Ruskin School of Art. Underpinning this research is a common series of broad questions: how does human activity (historical, contemporary, and imagined) shape the world around us? How can tracing such activity contribute to a deeper understanding of the environment? And what do historical, scientific, aesthetic, or fictive modes of investigation reveal about our relationship with the ‘natural’ world? Scientific concepts, such as biodiversity, often refer largely to the more pristine zones of the world.  But most parts of the earth are settled, farmed, and their nature irreversibly hybrid.  Biodiversity cannot effectively be conceived without understanding anthropogenic environments.  Environmental humanities provide a route to analyzing such changes.  And in attending to such questions, scholars share a common sense of what Jonathan Bate calls Ecocriticism’s shift from ‘consciousness-raising’ to ‘a form of consciousness’: a mode of enquiry that is open, reflective, and, above all, engaged.


There are several related activities associated with this research programme:



Biodiversity group within the School of Geography and the Environment: http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/biodiversity/

Oxford University Biodiversity Cluster: https://www.zoo.ox.ac.uk/biodiversity-cluster


Water Supply and Environmental Change

Oxford University Water Studies group: http://www.water.ox.ac.uk/

Environmental Change Institute: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/


Music, Sound, and Space

Hearing Landscape Critically: http://musiclandscapeconference.wordpress.com/

Music, Digitization, Mediation Project: https://digital.humanities.ox.ac.uk/project/music-digitisation-mediation-towards-interdisciplinary-music-studies


Life After the Anthropocene



Environmental Humanities Grant Projects

Click here to read more about 'Controlling Environments'.

Click here to read more about 'Human Predator Interactions'.

Click here to read more about 'Unencompassing the Archipelago'.


Trusted Source

Click here to read more about Trusted Source.



Fiona Stafford, fiona.stafford@some.ox.ac.uk

Allison Adler Inglis-Taylor, allisonadlerkroll@gmail.com

Past Events