is for Environment

New vocabularies for the past, present, and future

A graduate student symposium in celebration of Gaylord Nelson at 100 · Madison, WI · March 4–6, 2016

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“Environment is all of America and its problems. It is rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing that is not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit.”

— Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson, April 22, 1970

The graduate students of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), part of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are sponsoring a three-day symposium to explore new vocabularies for the environmental past, present, and future.

What are the keywords or concepts from your own research that give shape to the capacious and elusive term environment? Together we will revisit, question, and supplement the definition of familiar terms we use to think about the environment in order to explore both shared and differential meanings which can open up new avenues for investigation across a broad range of disciplines both inside and outside the academy.

Schedule of events

Friday, March 4

9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Paper Workshop 1A

140 Science Hall
  • Chloe Wardropper (Nelson Institute for Environmental STudies, UW-Madison)
    • “Uncertain measurement and risky participation: stakeholder perspectives on a performance-based regulatory water quality program in Wisconsin, USA”
  • Emily Spangenberg (Sociology, University of Texas–Austin)
    • “Contested terrain: defining ‘environmental remediation’ in Abra Pampa, Argentina”

Paper Workshop 1B

15 Science Hall
  • Sarah Dimick (English, UW-Madison)
    • “Formal Disruptions: Autumn Buds, Unseasonal Birds, and Altered Literary Aesthetics”
  • Sam Kling (Geography, Northwestern University)
    • “The Cook County Forest Preserves and Metropolitan Thinking in Chicago, 1904-1914”

1:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Paper Workshop 2A

140 Science Hall
  • Mary Anne Rozance (Urban Studies & Planning, Portland State University)
    • “Considering the Environment as Infrastructure: Informing Restoration Practice”
  • Shikha Lakhanpal (Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
    • “For the environment, against conservation: The shifting dynamics of the environment-development debate: Empirical evidence from India

Paper Workshop 2B

15 Science Hall
  • Amanda McMillan Lequieu (Community & Environmental Sociology, UW-Madison)
    • “Stabilizing landscapes: Negotiating narratives of a (former) company town”
  • Marika Plater (History, Rutgers University)
    • “Dreams of Elysian Fields: Competing Nature Cultures in Nineteenth-Century Hoboken”

4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Welcome Address

Wisconsin Historical Society
  • Paul Robbins (Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison)
    • "A Vocabulary for the Repressed: Native Presence, American Trauma, and John Muir's Wisconsin"

Keynote Address

  • Kate Brown (Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
    • "P is for Place: The Nature of Embodied History"

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Community Dinner

  • An informal community dinner with CHE friends, faculty, and grads as well as all visiting speakers and graduate students.

Saturday, March 5

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.


Northwoods Room, Union South

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

Panel 1

Northwoods Room, Union South
  • Jack Buchanan (Environmental Studies, UW-Madison)
    • “Environment is Everything: Transdisciplinarity's Journey of Escape from a Land of Two Cultures”
  • Kathleen Conti (Historic Preservation, University of Texas-Austin)
    • “Conservation through Education: Redesigning the Visitor Center at Badlands National Park”
  • Andrew Davey (Geography, UW-Madison)
    • “The Moral Limits of ‘Environmental’ Education”
  • Rosalie Edmonds (Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles)
    • “The Role of Language Ideologies in Environmental Work in Cameroon”

10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Panel 2

Northwoods Room, Union South
  • Jennifer Mateer (Geography, University of Victoria)
    • “Traditional Women & Modern Men: Linking Gender and Water Management in Punjab, India”
  • Michael S. Kideckel (History, Columbia University)
    • “Capital N is for Nature: Breakfast Cereal Environmentalism and the Moral Body, 1890-1920”
  • Cori Knudten (History, University of California, Davis)
    • “Gender, Sexuality, and Urban Infrastructure in California’s East Bay, 1920-1941”
  • Caitlyn Schuchhardt (English, UW-Madison)
    • “B is for Bhopal: Lessons from an Ongoing Industrial Disaster”

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Panel 3

Northwoods Room, Union South
  • Melissa Charenko (History of Science, UW-Madison)
    • “The Science of Prophecy: The Historic Factor and the Emergence of Prophetic Ecology, 1900-1940”
  • Tyler Harlan (Geography, University of California, Los Angeles)
    • “Generating Ecological Civilization: Small Hydropower and the Vocabulary of Rural Green Production in China”
  • Elena McGrath (History, UW-Madison)
    • “From Revolution to Pachakuti? Bolivian Miners in a Precarious Landscape, 1952-1985”
  • Jared Taber (History, University of Kansas)
    • “Residence Time: Water and the Social Temporality of Work in the Early American Republic”

3:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Service Outing

University of Wisconsin Arboretum

6:00 – 9:30 p.m.

Graduate Student Dinner

UW Arboretum

Sunday, March 6

8:00 – 8:30 a.m.


Northwoods Room, Union South

8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Panel 4

Northwoods Room, Union South
  • Julia C. Frankenbach (History, University of Colorado-Boulder)
    • “Becoming Vaquero: Material Memory and the Power of a Photograph in Reassembling Northern Nevada’s Vaquero Heritage”
  • Ruedigar Matthes (Environmental Humanities, University of Utah)
    • “In the World but Not of the World: Spatial Mythologies and the (Non)Places of Mormonism”
  • Bo Wang (Anthropology, UW-Madison)
    • “Cultivating Ecological Self by Soundscape in the Sacred City Shangri-La, China”
  • Max Woods (Comparative Literature, UW-Madison)
    • “‘Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads’: Uprooting Nature with Gertrude Stein”

10:15 – 11:30 a.m.


Northwoods Room, Union South
  • Sarah Besky (Assistant Professor of Anthropology & International and Public Affairs, Brown University)
  • Scott Kirsch (Associate Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Nancy Langston (Professor of Environmental History & Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University)
  • Paul Robbins, Chair (Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies)

11:30 – 11:50 a.m.

Closing Remarks


Sarah Besky
Sarah Besky is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Her book, The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India (University of California Press), won the 2014 Society for Economic Anthropology Book Award. She has published articles in Antipode, Labor, and Agriculture and Human Values. She earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was a graduate associate in the Center for Culture, History, and Environment. Her current book project is Transparent Futures? Technology, Trade, and Postcolonial Industrial Reform in India.
Kate Brown
Kate Brown is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is the author of three books, most recently Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten (Chicago, 2015). Her 2013 book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, has received seven major awards, including the American Historical Association's 2015 John H. Dunning prize, biennially awarded to the most outstanding book in U.S. history. Her writing has appeared in Harper's, Slate, Aeon, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. A 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, Brown's academic career began at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned her B.A. 
Jack Buchanan
A California native with interests in environment and food systems, it was UW's agroecology program that lured me to Madison. My MS thesis looked broadly at the evolution of agroecology as a coherent (inter-)discipline, and specifically at its conceptual frameworks contesting the boundaries of the agroecosystem. Now in the Nelson Institute's E&R PhD, my dissertation extends my master's work to questions of environment and health broadly construed, weaving diverse perspectives on transdisciplinarity into a generalizable heuristic framework for research in wicked sustainability problems. When not biting off more theory than I can chew, I enjoy snowboarding, backpacking, racquetball, cooking, fermentation, meditation, foreign languages and Brazilian percussion.
Melissa Charenko
Melissa Charenko is a dissertator in the History of Science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation, "The 'Science of Prophecy?': The Role of Paleo-Disciplines in the Face of Anthropogenic Change, 1900-2015,” explores how the methods and approaches developed in the 20th century by paleoecology, paleolimnology, and paleooceanography have given these paleodisciplines authority as prognosticators of the future in the wake of global change.
Kathleen Conti
Kathleen Conti is simultaneously pursuing a Masters of Science in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation studies the inception and professionalization of historic preservation as a distinct area of expertise, focusing on international cooperation among practitioners in the US and the USSR. Seeking to use history to affect public policy, she has worked with the Maier Museum of Art, National D-Day Memorial, and most recently with Badlands National Park as part of the UT-Austin Centennial Studio with the NPS.
Andy Davey
I am a PhD student in the Geography department broadly interested in environmental history; place-based education; religion and nature; food systems; and political theory. After receiving a BA in philosophy I worked for six years in the non-profit sector, including living and working with people with developmental disabilities and growing vegetables on an urban farm. I am currently doing dissertation research on the development of environmental education and ethics at liberal arts colleges in different political and religious spaces and contexts. I'm also working with community gardening organizations in Madison, WI to promote food and racial justice.
Sarah Dimick
Sarah Dimick is a PhD candidate in the department of English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include contemporary American and global literature, environmental thought and history, literary portrayals of climate change and fossil fuel consumption, and theories of agency within the Anthropocene. Sarah received her BA in English from Carleton College and her MFA in creative writing from New York University. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys backpacking, especially along the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota.
Rosalie Edmonds
Rosalie Edmonds is a graduate student in linguistic anthropology at UCLA. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Anthropology from the University of Michigan in 2009, and a Master’s degree in Anthropology from UCLA in 2015. Her master’s thesis explored the symbolic capital surrounding both animals and languages at a zoo in Cameroon, where she also served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Rosalie is currently preparing for dissertation fieldwork at a wildlife sanctuary in Cameroon, where she will study transnational, multilingual communication and its impact on environmental conservation work.
Julia Frankenbach
Julia is a second-year Ph.D. student in American history at the University of Colorado at Boulder, specializing in environmental and rural labor history in the American West during the decades surrounding 1900. Her most recent work explores the usefulness of photographed material cultural clues—such as saddles and roping styles—for reassembling the story of Hispanic professional cowboys who worked for the California/Nevada cattle industry until the 1920s. Her continued ventures include research and writing on wild horses, nativeness, rural American life, and varied experiences of belonging (and not belonging) to place in the American West.
Tyler Harlan
Tyler Harlan is a PhD student in Geography at UCLA researching small hydropower in China and its role in China's model of sustainable rural development. His broader research interests include rural renewable energy systems (particularly those using carbon financing) and China's efforts to spread development in other countries. He has an MPhil from the University of Melbourne and a BA from Vanderbilt University, and has worked outside the academy in foreign policy and city planning. He loves to run, backpack, canoe, fly fish, ski, scuba dive...basically anything outside.
Michael S. Kideckel
Michael Kideckel is a PhD Candidate at Columbia University studying with Professor Karl Jacoby. His dissertation, Fresh from the Factory: Industrial Food Culture and the Marketing of Reform, explores the rise of the breakfast cereal industry at the turn of the twentieth century, and how it related to transatlantic environmentalism. When thinking about more than cereal, Michael volunteers as a researcher for the nascent Museum of Food and Drink. Michael would love to chat about research, food, and the craft of baseball.
Scott Kirsch
Scott Kirsch is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Geography Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He works in the field of science and technology studies, with a special interest in cartography and nuclear landscapes. He also explores geographies of war and peace, especially spaces of U.S. imperialism in the Pacific. With Colin Flint, he edited Reconstructing Conflict: Integrating War and Post-War Geographies (2011). His writing has appeared in Antipode, the Journal of Historical Geography, and Cultural Geographies, among many other publications, and he was a contributor to Landscapes of Exposure: Knowledge and Illness in Modern Environments (Osiris, vol. 19).
Sam Kling
I'm a PhD student in history at Northwestern University, where I specialize in American urban, suburban, and urban planning history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My dissertation, “Taming the Crabgrass Frontier: Regional Planning and Reform in Metropolitan Chicago, 1893-1933,” traces the contests between urban reformers and business interests to shape suburban development in early-twentieth-century Chicago—a process that contributed to the flawed policy foundations of New Deal housing programs and postwar suburbanization. I have a BA in history from Kenyon College and an MA in history from Northwestern.
Cori Knudten
Cori Knudten is a PhD candidate in history at University of California Davis. She holds an MA in Public History from Colorado State University. Her areas of focus include U.S. environmental and women's and gender history. She is currently working on her dissertation, which examines how gender shaped the environment of the modern city in the 1920s and 1930s.
Amanda McMillan Lequieu
Amanda McMillan Lequieu is PhD candidate in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's joint departments of Sociology and Community and Environmental Sociology. She is passionate about understanding how people adapt to globalizing economies and changing environments over time, through the lenses of narrative, environmental history, and economic development. Her current project considers narratives of home, place identity, and environment among working class residents in two interconnected and deindustrialized communities - a rural county in northern Wisconsin and an urban community in southeast Chicago.
Shikha Lakhanpal
Shikha is a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography, UIUC. Her doctoral research analyzes the social and political processes that explain conservation and renewable energy geographies. To this end, she is analyzing local opposition to renewable energy projects located next to areas of conservation concern across three sites in India. She has eight years of research experience in natural resource management, including forest governance, socio-economic vulnerability to climate change, renewable energy policy and practice, biodiversity conservation and natural heritage. Shikha’s long-term goal is to pursue empirically grounded theoretical research within the environment, development and democracy nexus.
Nancy Langston
Nancy Langston is one of the world's leading environmental historians. She taught for nearly two decades in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was a founding faculty associate of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment. Today she is Professor of Environmental History and Social Science, and member of the Great Lakes Research Center, at Michigan Technological University. She is the author of several books, most recently Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES (Yale, 2010). She is currently completing the manuscript for Sustaining Lake Superior, chronicling the incomplete but inspiring reclamations of Great Lakes forests, fisheries, and toxic waste sites.
Jennifer Mateer
Jennifer Mateer is an ABD candidate and lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria. Jennifer’s current research focuses on the impacts that water management strategies have on the more-than-human world and the hydro-social cycle in India. Previously, she has also conducted research in Rwanda on topics related to geographies of health. She has two forthcoming chapters, the first titled "Violent Nations: 1984’s Othering of Sikhs", edited by Dr. Bhogala, and the second titled "Oppression and Resistance: The Use of Animal Bodies for the Purpose of Political Emancipation in India" in a volume edited by Dr. Rutherford and Dr. Wilcox.
Ruedigar Matthes
Ruedigar grew into adulthood in Salt Lake City's University neighborhood. He received undergraduate degrees in English and Biology before entering the Environmental Humanities Master's program at the University of Utah. There he studies the intersections between place, space, identity, and culture, especially in relation to Mormon architectures. He is interested in the role that cultural and religious beliefs inform human interactions with environments. When he is not busy writing his thesis, Ruedigar enjoys reading fiction, writing poetry, baking bread, cooking (and eating) delicious food, dancing, and spending time with his lovely wife and anti-social cat.
Elena McGrath
I am a graduate student in Latin American History, working on my dissertation about revolutionary Bolivian miners in the 20th century. Born and raised in the mountain West, I fell in love with the Andes at first sight. I am interested in the ways that landscapes shape political possibilities and the ways that communities articulate belonging in terms of race, class, and gender. My work asks what makes revolutions imaginable, and what makes revolutionary dreams fall apart. I am also a member of the Program in Gender and Women’s History and the Latin American Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program.
Marika Plater
Marika is a third year doctoral student of History at Rutgers University and her work focuses on working-class cultures of outdoor recreation in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century New York City. Marika considers the ways that urban workers sought contact with nature at pleasure grounds, excursion destinations, and beergardens.
Mary Ann Rozance
Mary Ann is an Urban Studies PhD student at Portland State University. She is also fellow in the NSF IGERT program on Ecosystem Services in Urbanizing Regions. She received her B.S. in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of British Columbia and her M.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In addition to her academic work, she has worked in the field of environmental planning for different government agencies. Her doctoral work examines climate change adaptation planning in cities; focusing on environmental governance and knowledge systems and the role of local knowledge in environmental decision-making.
Paul Robbins
Paul Robbins is Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow and the Breakthrough Institute. His work spans the globe exploring the past and present politics of natural resource management in the Anthropocene. He recently received the Robert McC. Netting Award from the Association of American Geographers for his pathbreaking work in the field of political ecology. He is also the author of Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are (Temple, 2007).
Caitlyn Schuchhardt
Caitlyn Schuchhardt is a graduate student in the English Department at UW-Madison. She studies postcolonial ecocriticism, with a focus on environmental justice, toxicity, and the work of writer-activists.
Emily Spangenberg
Emily is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas. Her work focuses on environmental inequalities in extractive economies. Her dissertation project analyzes the politics of mining waste in Argentina, particularly how discourses on related environmental risks are racialized and gendered. Since 2009, Emily has collaborated with UT Law's Human Rights Clinic to monitor indigenous and health rights in the implementation of a lead waste cleanup project in Abra Pampa, Argentina. At UT, Emily is a fellow of the Urban Ethnography Lab and is affiliated with the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice.
Jared Taber
Jared Taber is a Ph.D. candidate in Department of History at the University of Kansas. His dissertation focuses on how ordinary people developed and deployed knowledge about water use and river dynamics in New England's Connecticut River Valley during the course of industrialization and urbanization. He is particularly interested in how people situated their environmental knowledge across different timescales.
Bo Wang
I am a PhD candidate in Anthropology, University of Wisconsin at Madison. My research focuses on the cultural conceptions and management of solid waste in contemporary Tibetan China. I completed 17 months of fieldwork in Shangri-La, Yunnan with grants from NSF. I investigate how ideas of the sacred and the profane manifest themselves in people's everyday engagements with solid waste at homes and in sacred mountains. Through ethnography, I aim to understand how the sensory experiences of solid waste comes into being. My dissertation is titled “Producing Waste and Han’s Sacred Other: Environment and Religion in Shangri-La, Tibetan Southwest China.”
Chloe B. Wardropper
Chloe is a Ph.D. candidate in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on natural resources policy. Her research asks how water quality and weather information is perceived and used for soil and water conservation in the U.S. Upper Mississippi River Basin. After completing her B.A. in the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University, she worked on public land acquisitions with the U.S. Department of Justice, assisted in soil and wetland conservation with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Massachusetts, and implemented environmental practices with a U.S. Agency for International Development agriculture project in West Africa.
Max Woods
A doctoral graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Woods works with the historical avant-gardes, specifically the non-French avant-gardes including those of Chile and Russia amongst others, looking at their relationship to ecocriticism. He argues that despite the avant-garde’s reputation for destroying the bond uniting the human and non-human, its various experiments in alternative spatial configurations provide imaginative solutions to contemporary issues of urban studies’ attempts to construct a green city.