Summer Institute in Environmental Humanities

The Colby Summer Institute in Environmental Humanities (SIEH) gathers scholars from around the globe to collectively explore how the Environmental Humanities contribute to the theorization, imagination, and practice of socially just and ecologically hopeful futures for humans and nonhumans. For each iteration of the Summer Institute, we select some of the most respected scholars in environmental humanities to present lectures on their current research, lead seminars on the most important questions facing the discipline, and guide works-in-progress workshops where the research of every participant is critiqued and polished by their peers. In addition to this intense scholarly engagement, we take full advantage of Maine’s natural and cultural treasures. Participants recharge, forge connections, and find inspiration during excursions to Allen Island, the Colby Arboretum, and the Colby Museum of Art. The week-long timeline allows new friendships and professional relationships to develop, creating an enduring network of Institute Alumni Fellows.

We are excited to announce that the application period for the 2024 SIEH is now open. If you are an academic, artist, activist, or independent scholar with a passion for the environmental humanities, we invite you to join us in beautiful Maine from July 28 – August 4, 2024, for a week of seminars, lectures, workshops, field trips, and other events.

The fifth annual Summer Institute seminar leaders will be Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology, and Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis; Cajetan Iheka, Professor of English at Yale University; Jason W. Moore, Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University; and Astrida Neimanis, Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at The University of British Columbia. 

The application period for the 2024 iteration of the SIEH has closed. For questions about the SIEH, please email Program Coordinator Portia Hardy at [email protected].

Seminar Leaders

Marisol de la Cadena

University of California, Davis

Marisol’s recent book Earth Beings. Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds (2015) is based on conversations with two Quechua speaking men that lived in Cuzco (Peru). Through these conversations we think together about life at the intriguing crossroads where modern politics (and history) and earth-beings (and the ahistorical) meet and diverge, thus exceeding each other. The book is an ethnography concerned with the concreteness of incommensurability and the eventfulness of the ahistorical.

Currently her field sites are cattle ranches and veterinary schools in Colombia. There she engages practices and relations between people, cows, and ‘things’ in general. Thinking at divergent bio/geo interfaces, she is interested in capturing “the stuff” that makes life and death in conditions of dramatic ecological and political change as the country endures extreme droughts and floods and wants to transition between the violence of war to a condition of peace that might not be without violence. 

Located at the interface between STS and non-STS, and working through what she calls “ontological openings” (fellow traveler of but different from what has been termed “ontological turn”), her interests include the study of politics, multispecies (or multi-entities), indigeneity, history and the a-historical, world anthropologies and the anthropologies of worlds. In all these areas her concern is the relationship between concepts and methods, and interfaces as analytical sites. More prosaically, she is interested in ethnographic concepts – those that blur the distinction between theory and the empirical because they are not without the latter.


Cajetan Iheka

Yale University

Cajetan Iheka specializes in African literature, ecocriticism, ecomedia, and postcolonial literature. He serves as director of the Whitney Humanities Center, chair of the Council on African Studies, and head of the Africa Initiative at Yale. Professor Iheka is the author of Naturalizing Africa: Ecological Violence, Agency, and Postcolonial Resistance in African Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2018), winner of the 2019 Ecocriticism Book Award of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, and the 2020 First Book Prize of the African Literature Association. His latest single-authored book is African Ecomedia: Network Forms, Planetary Politics (Duke University Press, 2021). The monograph, which positions Africa at the center of discourses on media ecologies, materiality, and infrastructure, received six book prizes. Among other accolades, African Ecomedia won the 2022 African Studies Association Best Book Prize (formerly Herskovits Book Prize), the Ecocriticism Book Award of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, and the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award of the International Studies Association. He is also editor of the MLA volume Teaching Postcolonial Environmental Literature and Media (2022); and coedited African Migration Narratives: Politics, Race, and Space (University of Rochester Press, 2018), and Environmental Transformations, a special issue of African Literature Today.

Professor Iheka is currently working on a comparative study of the cultural and formal intimacies of African and Caribbean literatures. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of African Studies Review, the multidisciplinary journal of the African Studies Association.

Jason W. Moore

Binghamton University

Jason W. Moore (詹森•W.摩尔, Джейсон Мур, 제이슨 W. 무어) is an environmental historian and historical geographer at Binghamton University, where he is professor of sociology and leads the World-Ecology Research Collective. He is author or editor, most recently, of Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015), Capitalocene o Antropocene?(Ombre Corte, 2017), Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, 2016), and, with Raj Patel, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things (University of California Press, 2017). His books and essays on environmental history, capitalism, and social theory have been widely recognized, including the Alice Hamilton Prize of the American Society for Environmental History (2003), the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the Section on the Political Economy of the World-System (American Sociological Association, 2002 for articles, and 2015 for Web of Life), and the Byres and Bernstein Prize in Agrarian Change (2011). He coordinates the World-Ecology Research Network.

Astrida Neimanis

University of British Columbia

Astrida Neimanis is a cultural theorist working at the intersection of feminism and environmental change. Her research focuses on bodies, water, and weather, and how they can help us reimagine justice, care, responsibility and relation in the time of climate catastrophe. Her most recent book, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology is a call for humans to examine our relationships to oceans, watersheds, and other aquatic life forms from the perspective of our own primarily watery bodies, and our ecological, poetic, and political connections to other bodies of water. Additional research interests include theories and practice of interdisciplinarity, feminist epistemologies, intersectionality, multispecies justice, and everyday militarisms.
Astrida’s research practice includes collaborations with artists, writers, scientists, makers, educational institutions, and communities, often in the form of experimental public pedagogies. Her writing can be found in numerous academic journals and edited collections, artistic exhibitions and catalogues, and online media. Astrida joins UBCO after six years in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney on Gadigal Land, in Sydney, Australia.

2023 Summer Institute

The fourth annual summer institute of 2023 brought together a diverse set of scholars and artists working at the intersections of race and the environment, Native studies in environmental visual cultures, environmental philosophy beyond the United States, and much more. The 2023 seminar leaders were Brian Burkhart, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Interim Director of the Native Nations Center at the University of Oklahoma; Ursula K. Heise, Professor of English and Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles; Barbara Muraca, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon; and Craig Santos Perez, Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.

2022 Summer Institute

In 2022, we returned to a full in-person experience for a week of exciting events and thought-provoking conversations. The 2022 seminar leaders were Sunil Amrith, Professor of History at Yale University; Mel Chen, Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, Berkeley; Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Professor of English at the University of California; and Kathryn Yusoff, Professor of Inhuman Geography at Queen Mary University of London.


2021 Summer Institute

As has been the case with so many academic events, the 2021 Summer Institute in the Environmental Humanities was modified by the pandemic, adopting a hybrid format to support the safest possible experience for all participants. The 2021 guest lecturers were Stacy Alaimo, Professor of English and Core Faculty Member in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon; Bishnupriya Ghosh, Professor of English and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Imre Szeman, Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo. There was also a spotlight lecture by Krushil Watene, Associate Professor of Humanities Media and Creative Communications at Massey University in New Zealand. 

2019 Summer Institute