During the summer of 2015 Ben Mylius, Avana Andrade, Noah Sokol, Jason Daniel Schwartz, Chris Hebdon, and Nelson Walker received a grant to begin work on their project titled “Encounters with Place.” The abstract below describes the project in it’s initial stages, and David Haskell is working with the group as an advisor and collaborator. Elements of their findings will be incorporated into his environmental writing courses and hopefully lead to additional curricular pieces (e.g., course modules or perhaps a course itself).

Project Abstract:

Ecological crisis is conceptual crisis. Large-scale phenomena like climate change reveal the extent of the challenges that we face in understanding particular places, and the limitations of the specific disciplinary lenses by which we understand ‘place’ more generally. We propose to engage with these issues through a multidisciplinary investigation of the Maze District, a region in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The Maze is a place rich with possibilities for ecology, ethnography, archaeology, environmental history and philosophy. Here, we will produce a series of reflective pieces of work and a set of questions and provocations, melded together as a multimedia website, which will serve as a creative teaching tool in future Yale and Sewanee undergraduate and graduate place-based courses. The members of the project team bring a diverse range of perspectives and experience. Ben Mylius brings expertise in law, jurisprudence, and philosophy; Noah Sokol in soil science, ecology, and digital/radiojournalism; Avana Andrade in environmental humanities and community development; Jason Schwartz in environmental history, writing, and pedagogy; Chris Hebdon in anthropology, archaeology, and film. One of the key benefits we anticipate from our time together, as individuals highly trained in particular disciplines but with a shared focal point and a collaborative set of questions, is our capacity to act as outsiders for eachother: providing an external, interested lay perspective to eachother’s expert work, such that each of us is able to reflect more clearly individually on the strengths and limitations of our own disciplinary lenses, and so we are able to reflect more clearly together on the ways these lenses map over each other to create a series of responses to the Maze which still leave space for the dynamic, nonhuman elements of the place itself.

The benefits of this project to our individual and collective disciplines, to the Yale-Sewanee partnership, and to the environmental and place-oriented communities at both institutions include: investment in teaching tools that can be used at both institutions; provision of a pedagogy encouraging multidisciplinary collaboration, self-reflexive contemplation, and disciplinary development; place-based engagement through the Maze; public scholarship via our website; and advancement of humanistic inquiry, in the context of place, which seeks to re-imagine and reflect upon our disciplinary tools. The project is a collaboration between the project team, supported by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Sage Magazine, the Yale Earth Laws Project, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

Final Report