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"Understanding Sustainability: Perspectives From the Humanities," May 20-22, 2010
Author: David Santen, Office of University Communications/Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices
Posted: May 5, 2010

PCPH Sustainability Image(Portland, Ore.) May 5, 2010 – The nation’s leading forum for a humanities perspective on sustainability returns to Portland State University (PSU), May 20-22, 2010. (LINEUP UPDATED)

This free, three-day event brings over 60 scholars from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to Portland to draw out the controversies over the meaning and practice of sustainability, through an inspiring array of panel discussions and conversations.

Organized by the Portland Center for Public Humanities at PSU, this year’s conference includes a trio of plenary talks with three innovative thinkers: Natalie Jeremijenko, Stephen Gardiner, and Cary Wolfe. Each of these sessions showcases a unique perspective on sustainability, combining a keynote presentation and follow-up discussion with selected respondents.

Panels run from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 21-22, 2010, with sample topics including “Urban and Civic Ecology,” “Sustainability in Art and New Media,” “Political Strategy Roundtable,” “Green Business Practices and the Question of Corporate Responsibility,” and much more. A complete program is available for download at www.understandingsustainability.org.

All events are free and will be held at PSU’s Native American Student and Community Center (NASCC), 710 S.W. Jackson St., Portland, Ore., unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, May 20, 7–9 p.m.
Cary Wolfe, “Biopolitics and Species Difference”
Cary Wolfe, professor of English at Rice University, researches and publishes widely in areas such as animal studies and posthumanism, systems theory and pragmatism, biopolitics and biophilosophy, and American literature and culture.

Friday, May 21, 9–10:30 a.m.
Stephen Gardiner, “Climate Justice”
Stephen Gardiner is associate professor of philosophy and affiliate faculty with the Program on Values in Society at the University of Washington. He specializes in ethics, political philosophy and environmental ethics.

Saturday, May 22th, 9–10:30 a.m.
Natalie Jeremijenko, “After Copenhagen: Emerging Strategies of Political Participation”
Natalie Jeremijenko is an internationally recognized artist and engineer whose work primarily explores the interface between society, the environment and technology. She is currently an associate professor at New York University in the Visual Art Department, and has affiliated faculty appointments in Computer Science and Environmental Studies.

About “Understanding Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities”
Talk of "sustainability" is everywhere—sometimes as an ecological vision, an advertising strategy, a countercultural dream or even a business model. The goal of the second-annual international conference on “Understanding Sustainability” is to encourage innovative dialogues and debate between these diverse groups:

  • Humanities scholars working in fields such as eco-criticism, green cultural studies, environmental ethics, philosophy of science and environmental history;
  • Social scientists working in the areas of social sustainability, environmental justice, environmental economics and sustainable business practices;
  • Local designers, city planners, and social service providers who are building Portland’s reputation as a leader in sustainability; and,
  • Artists and activists shaping ideas of green ethics and aesthetics or new strategies of political participation.


The conference is supported in part by PSU’s Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices with funding from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation’s ten-year, $25 million grant for sustainability to Portland State University.

Additional support comes from a critical exchange grant from the Imagining America consortium of colleges and universities, in acknowledgement of innovative work in the humanities and sustainability.

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About the Portland Center for Public Humanities
The Portland Center for the Public Humanities at Portland State University (PCPH) promotes rigorous humanistic inquiry into the languages, histories, and ideas that shape our ways of life, as well as those that offer a means of positively transforming them.  In our view, the underlying purpose of the core humanistic disciplines is to engage public life by reframing our perspectives, interrogating our assumptions, and raising questions about human thought, history, and culture.  PCPH seeks to let knowledge serve the Portland community in the most direct possible sense, by building partnerships and providing forums where intellectual inquiry and civic engagement come together. http://www.pdx.edu/public-humanities

About Portland State University
Portland State University (PSU) serves as a center of opportunity for over 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Located in Portland, Oregon, one of the nation’s most livable cities, the University’s innovative approach to education combines academic rigor in the classroom with field-based experiences through internships and classroom projects with community partners. The University’s 49-acre downtown campus provides a living laboratory for Portland State’s commitment to sustainability, with many of the 125 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees incorporating sustainability into the curriculum. PSU’s motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” inspires the teaching and research of an accomplished faculty whose work and students span the globe.

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