HOTB2020 Panel 2.4: The (Post)Humanities



Panel 2.4: The (Post)Humanities

“Interdisciplinary Environmental Interventions through Humor and Satire”

Massih Zekavat and Tabea Scheel (Europa-Universität Flensburg)

“Participatory Inclusion in Knowledge Creation in Public Posthumanities Research”

Laura Barbas-Rhoden (Wofford College)

“Eco-Art and Sciences in an Age of Cynicism”

Thomas Asmuth and Sara Gevurtz (University of West Florida (Asmuth) and Auburn University (Gevurtz))

“Environmental Knowledge Production: A Case Study of Journalism Students at the University of Tyumen”

Irina Belyakova and Elena Plakhina (University of Tyumen)



Q & A

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7 replies
  1. Massih Zekavat says:

    Dear Laura,
    I found a chance to watch your presentation. Thank you; I really enjoyed it. I guess there are two sides to participatory inclusion. One can reach out to the community and advocate public participation. This, however, cannot be easily sustained unless one can secure some sort of structural support for the initiative which frequently translates into reaching out and persuading policymakers. You also observe that this participation requires unlearning. I wonder how one can push for this process of unlearning at both public and policymaker levels, esp. when it comes to environmental advocacy.
    Thank you again.

    • Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

      Thanks so much for this observation and engagement. I concur with your observation about the need for both advocacy and unlearning, or what I’d call a process of continuous critical reflection and questioning. My approach with regard to publics has been twofold: presence (in community spaces) and deep listening. Being present, listening, fosters relationships, which for me are essential for work for justice. By listening, I can sense possibilities for collaborative knowledge co-creation, which will is ultimately grounded in relationships. In our work, relationships and advocacy have built steadily over time, and there are moments when the relationships deepen or the advocacy accelerates with greater intensity.

      With regard to policymakers, it’s been much the same: presence and listening, and from listening, discernment of opportunities for engaging. Because I’m at a liberal arts college, it has been most possible for me, and the teams of which I’m a part, to effect change at the local institutional, municipal, and county levels, and to enter state-level conversations with compelling local data.

      Environmental advocacy, with that label, is trickier here than angles of public health related to food justice, safe and supportive living environments (including air and water, heat mitigation) because the discourse around health equity among funders, policymakers, and nonprofits, is more robust in our community than the discourse around climate justice and environmental justice. The area of public health provides an entry point and has created a space for critical reflection about the historical roots of social and material realities that shape well-being.

  2. Christine Daigle says:

    Thank you for the talk Laura. I too seek to engage in knowledge generation in different ways and engaging different knowledge creators. You mention the constraints of institutional structures such as funding and grant applications. I think there is a lot of work to do to convince many people that participatory co-creation of knowledge is as valid as what academe has held as the penultimate model to emulate: the lone scholar in their study (typically a cisgendered white male) thinking hard about the world and discovering truths by themselves.

    • Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

      I agree! Diversification of perspectives among higher education funders is key, I think, so that those with decision-making power are not from the same degree-granting institutions, similar intersectional identities (cis male, white, middle or upper class, urban, etc.), or disciplinary backgrounds. I’m curious, what efforts have you found effective at convincing others to make space for participatory co-creation of knowledge? Or to do it anyway?

  3. Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

    Massih, thank you for your talk and for pointing to the opportunity for ecocritics to draw upon psychology and environmental psychology. You shared two examples from pop culture. I wonder if you are aware of environmental movements at any level of scale employing humor in campaigns for behavior and/or attitude change, and if so, what sorts of humor they’ve used?

    • Massih Zekavat says:

      Thank you for your illuminating response and your interesting question, Laura. I am not aware of any environmental campaign that systematically resorts to humor and satire to advocate its cause. There are of course occasional instances here and there, but it is not yet concerted to be integrated into a movement as a propulsion. Actually, I hope to suggest that the use of humor and satire can help campaigns to gain traction. One reason why people and policymakers have not appropriately responded to the urgency of the situation is that scientific findings about ecological crises, including climate change, have not been effectively communicated to them. Most environmental messages rely on dystopic and gloomy premonitions trying to induce fear in order to persuade their audience to take action. Although fear can imbue some people with motivation and urge them to act, merely scaring people and depicting a hopeless situation is not enough to mobilize them. Humor and satire, nonetheless, can function as effective alternatives to fear-inducing messages which have been prevalent in most information campaigns. Due to their experiential, affective, visceral, emotional, tangible and aesthetic appeal, they can better transfer scientific findings in a way that leads to genuine engagement and commitment for change.

  4. Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

    Thomas and Sara, thank you for sharing your projects. You mentioned briefly, with respect to the water turbidity project, the aim to build “transdisciplinary community” and to use “conversation as a democratizing discourse.” Could you explain more how you foster both transdisciplinary community among co-participants from institutions and also conversation with/among broader publics?

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