Environmental Humanities & Social Sciences

It has become increasingly apparent that environmental issues need to be examined using new approaches to think outside existing frameworks. Environmental Humanities at UNSW is a leader in this emerging field, drawing together a dynamic interdisciplinary group of scholars whose research addresses contemporary environmental challenges in a way that is historically, philosophically and culturally informed.

Our scholars begin with the proposition that environmental problems are irreducibly entangled with social and cultural practices and questions of politics, knowledge, meaning, value and ethics. This is critical at a time when issues related to the environment have become highly politicised, with public opinion and even policy influenced by misinformation in the media. UNSW’s distinctive approach brings together a group of scholars with a grounding in history, philosophy, cultural studies, literature, science and technology studies, and social theory, working towards a critical ‘politics of nature’.

Our research in Environmental Humanities can be divided into four key themes:

• Environment, technology and the politics of knowledge

• Animal studies and politics of life

• Cultures of (un)sustainability

• Rethinking the humanities through the environment

The Impact of our Work

Within the four theme areas our researchers focus on issues as varied as: climate science; extinction; landscape and memory and the cultural and political practices that surround the innovation of new technologies; biopolitics; ethics and responsibility; and the interplay between technology, the environment and cultural innovation.

Across these areas of research our staff are making distinctive contributions in both the Australian and international contexts. This includes collaboration with UNSW colleagues from areas such as the Institute of Environmental Studies, the School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Climate Change Research Centre, and a number of visiting positions at international institutions across the Americas, UK and Europe.

Given the growing global interest in environmental matters across academia, politics and the general public it is significant that UNSW is well positioned as a leader in this increasingly important field of research.

Evidence of Excellence

The UNSW Environmental Humanities group have already established a track record of grant success, with funding from the ARC Discovery and Linkage programs, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, the European Commission, the Chilean National Research Fund, CSIRO and the Australian Council for the Arts. Our staff have published large numbers of journal articles, edited collections and monographs with leading international publishers.

Their strong standing amongst peers and the sector is demonstrated by staff holding key editorial and board positions for significant publications in the field, receiving awards for individual publications, and receiving membership to scholarly organisations such as the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

The first international journal in the field, Environmental Humanities, was launched by our group at UNSW (www.environmentalhumanities.org). Outside of that specific publication our specialists have a significant profile in journals across related fields such as environmental history, environmental risk, policy and management, biopolitics and animal studies.