Oceans and Deserts: Charting Transdisciplinary Currents in Environment and Culture within the Arts and Sciences

Friday, February 28, 2014 - 8:00am to Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 10:00am
Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium 1601 E University Blvd Tucson, AZ 85721 AND Student Union U of A Kiva Room 1303 E. University Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85719  

The Department of German Studies is hosting the national conference Oceans and Deserts: Charting Transdisciplinary Currents in Environment and Culture within the Arts and Sciences, which will take place on Friday, February 28th in the University of Arizona’s Flandrau Planetarium and on Saturday, March 1st in the Kiva Room of the Student Union. The conference will feature keynote addresses by Prof. Everett Shock of Arizona State University and Prof. Conevery Valencius of the University of Massachusetts Boston, as well as a presentation by Prof. Nina Berman of Ohio State University. 

Taking as its object of study the influence culture exerts over the environment and vice versa, Oceans and Deserts spans the sciences and humanities by bringing scholars together to interrogate how these mutual influences unfold in specific contexts. Its approach promotes inclusivity, destabilizing the institutional boundaries that keep fields complacent to not consult the fruitful work beyond its own means of description and furthering the case for transdisciplinary inquiry. Oceans and Deserts seeks to make the uniqueness of a given disciplinary approach transparent to other fields, encouraging a more robust dialogue and consequently a more nuanced portrait of the world around us.    

For more details, see the information from the conference's call for papers below:

The question of how the environment affects culture, and how culture in turn affects the environment, is far too broad and nuanced to be answered by any one field or substrate of human knowledge.  Only by bringing manifold fields and disciplines into dialog can the complex and ecological relationships between environment and culture be satisfactorily approached.  For far too long the arts and the sciences have sought to identify the nature of these relationships independently of one another, and even when the essays to apply interdisciplinary solutions have been made, these almost entirely call upon the insights of scholars and scholarship in fields belonging exclusively either to the arts or to the sciences.  This innovative transdisciplinary symposium attempts to bridge the oftentimes unnecessary, and in many ways illusory, divide separating artistic and scientific modes of inquiry.  Differences and divergences do indeed exist among these paradigms and approaches, but these are exactly the perspectives which should be brought into communication with one another in an inclusive discourse.

Oceans and deserts were chosen to entitle this symposium, as these environments seem to best illustrate the isolation and interconnection that lie at the heart of this transdisciplinary endeavor.  Much like the fields which we inhabit, oceans and deserts symbolize and embody means through which the human and natural worlds separate and connect themselves, serving simultaneously as barriers and sites of intercourse.  Biomes and the human cultures which exist on and in them are also simultaneously distinct from and dependent on one another, an ecological truth which challenges current scholarship to reevaluate the indigenity and authochthony of its own subdivisions and the subjects of its research.

We would like, therefore, to invite faculty and graduate students from all fields of inquiry to share their thoughts and research concerning the infinitely diverse and ever-changing relationships among cultures and environments.  We wish to restrict this transdisciplinary exchange as little as possible, and we hope to this end that the response and audience are as diverse as the subject matter.  We also do not wish to place any temporal or geographical constraints on the discussion, realizing that all cultures and environments at all times are integral to the constitution of the natural, human world.