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The collaboration between Penn, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the University of Toronto is dedicated to generating discussion and research on environmental justice, the climate crisis, and public engagement.

Credit: Diego Cárdenas Uribe

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities is partnering with two other research institutions to facilitate relationships and conversations between graduate researchers studying environmental humanities. 

The newly formed alliance between Penn, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the University of Toronto is titled the "Oxford-Penn-Toronto International Doctoral Cluster in Environmental Humanities," Penn Today reported. The collaboration is dedicated to generating discussion and research on environmental justice, the climate crisis, and public engagement. 

The first year of the partnership will center around the topics of environmental justice, decolonization, and collaboration with local community members in an effort to confront their colonial histories and the inequalities present in the cities where each of the institutions are located, Penn Today reported. The partnership will begin with a lecture series over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year.

The partnership was initially announced in September of this year. According to the joint press release, the partnership is “particularly animated by pressing issues surrounding the relationship of institutional regimes and their logics of power to environmental injustice.” 

The Oxford-Penn-Toronto International Doctoral Cluster’s lecture series, which is free and open to the public, will bring a variety of speakers together to discuss issues of inequality in environmental humanities along with questions about how society decides which situations of environmental poisoning to tolerate depending on the demographics of those affected, Penn Today reported. The first talk in the series took place on Oct. 28 and was led by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a professor at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in New Zealand, who specializes in decolonial studies.

Bethany Wiggin, faculty director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and an associate professor of German in the School of Arts and Sciences, told Penn Today that she is excited for her students to interact with communities and sites outside of Philadelphia. Wiggin also recognized the importance of promoting the voices of high-profile scholars in Indigenous and African-American studies, especially in coordination with the partnership’s goal of diversifying the predominantly white discipline.

“We decided it would be incredibly misguided if we sat in our privileged spots and talked to each other and didn’t really listen,” Wiggin told Penn Today. 

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities was founded in 2014, with the mission of fostering an interdisciplinary approach in research as a way of examining the role of the environment in matters of urban ecology and public engagement. Past initiatives of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities include its webinar series during Penn's Climate Week in September 2020 about advancing the role of climate and ecological literacy within curriculums in Philadelphia schools and beyond.

The Oxford-Penn-Toronto International Doctoral Cluster’s next lecture will take place on Dec. 1, featuring Kim Ruffin, an associate professor of English at Roosevelt University, who will discuss ways to make nature education more historically truthful and inclusive, Penn Today reported. Future lectures are currently scheduled to take place in February and March.

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