Kenan Institute Awards Fellowships to Five Graduate Students for Anthropocene Research

Portraits of Fellows.

Each summer, the Luce-funded grant Facing the Anthropocene supports five graduate and professional students as they undertake research related to the Anthropocene. The Farm Fellowship supports graduate and professional students undertaking research that relates in some way to the Duke Campus Farm. The Anthropocene Graduate Fellowship supports Ph.D. students who wish to integrate Anthropocene themes into their dissertation or thesis research.

The Anthropocene Graduate Fellows

Charles Nathan, a Ph.D. student in Political Science, argues that in ancient Athens, democratic equality was only possible by breaking citizens’ natural political affiliations to family, clans, and kinship associations, and also by severing political ties to their local geographic environs. The Anthropocene, he suggests, provides an opportunity to reinspect the dissociation of political identity from the natural environment and reevaluate the normative merits of “more natural” and “less natural” forms of political identity.

Casey Williams, in the Graduate Program in Literature, is looking at the representability of climate change. On the one hand, he says, anxiety that the planetary dimensions of contemporary crisis exceed the capacities of human thought. On the other hand, insisting that climate change presents an unprecedented but surmountable “challenge to the imagination” also betrays an unrelenting faith in human intellect that mirrors the key Anthropocene claim that the human is master not just of local environments, but of the planet, shaping it as a geological force.

Sarah Ziegler, in Marine Science and Conservation, will develop a podcast entitled “Hello, Human,” which will focus on the multiple ways people in North Carolina engage with nature, prioritizing efforts by local indigenous authorities to Native American environmental justice. She plans to incorporate this work into her dissertation on marine protected areas and indigenous social movement struggles in Rapa Nui.

The Farm Fellows

Perry Sweitzer is a Ph.D. student in Religion and Modernity. He is particularly interested in the intersection between race, land, and being human. His current research asks how taking account of the theological, religious, and secular might offer an important vantage point from which to think about these together.

Jonah Bissell, a student at the Divinity School, is researching the agrarian economy of Roman-Jewish Palestine in antiquity (1st century A.D.), in order to read the gospels ecologically.

Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, Facing the Anthropocene includes a multidisciplinary working group in which scholars engage in conversations surrounding the human impact on the planet. The group studies how political, legal, and economic orders have shaped landscapes and ecologies through global patterns of human habitation and use.

By Niall Schroder; originally posted on the Kenan Institute for Ethics website

Photos, left to right: Charles Nathan, Casey Williams, Sarah Ziegler, Perry Sweitzer, Jonah Bissell