Environmental Studies of the Great Lakes: A Symposium

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June 22-23, 2023, Champaign, IL

During the pandemic, an interdisciplinary group of scholars envisioned a new book series, Environmental Studies of the Great Lakes, in partnership with Catherine Cocks at Michigan State University Press. The idea of the series began with the observation that while the bioregion of the Great Lakes has increasing salience in cultural and regional consciousness, and while it is of course a crucial zone of multinational environmental policy, there is no publishing effort that consciously brings together scholarly work and serious writing about Great Lakes environmental issues and does so in a way that transcends the international border. Bioregions such as the U.S Southwest or Midwest, or Canadian Prairies or Atlantic Canada, are frequently employed as organizing principles for scholarly activities–such as associations, journals, book series, and conferences–and the Great Lakes basin deserves to be conceptualized in the same way. A small but growing group of historians, anthropologists, geographers, humanists, political scientists, and environmental writers have increased attention to the Lakes as a coherent place with a world-historical significance, and it seems an ideal time to begin a book series concentrating on the subject.

To serve as a launching point for this book series, a symposium titled “Environmental Studies of the Great Lakes” will be held in June 2023. We the organizers envision an opportunity to share and shape research agendas, opportunities, themes, and new interpretations about key issues in Great Lakes Environmental Studies. Overall we will think together about the complexity of the Lakes as a place: what are important trajectories that make the Lakes and their region distinctive and define their identity, history, and futures? Building on conversations taking place in activism, art, law, and other domains, we consider the ways scholarship has and has not envisioned the Great Lakes as an object and a distinctive place. Key themes around which our conversations may cohere include–but of course are not limited to–Indigenous presence and Indigenous place-making; colonization and settler place-making; transnational and borderlands culture, law and policy; climate futures; extraction and pollution; conservation, preservation, and activism; and environmental justice. 

The symposium has funding for travel, accommodations, and meals. We will meet from June 22-23 in Champaign, IL, at the University of Illinois. We invite scholars from many disciplines and backgrounds, and from all career stages to send proposals. We are particularly interested in scholars working on projects that may become books in this new series.

The organizers ask interested participants to propose their topics for presentations or for participation in roundtable discussions on three organizing themes of the book series: environmental justice, Indigenous histories and futures, transnational dimensions. Proposals should be 250 words or less, accompanied by a CV.

For more information please contact series co-editors Bob Morrissey (rmorriss [@] illinois.edu) and Dan Macfarlane, (daniel.macfarlane [@] wmich.edu). Please send proposals to Bob and Dan by January 15, 2023.     

Feature image: Lake Ontario. Photo by Daniel Macfarlane
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Daniel is an Associate Professor in the School of the Environment, Geography, and Sustainability at Western Michigan University. He is an editor for The Otter-La loutre and is part of the NiCHE executive. A transnational environmental historian who focuses on Canadian-American border waters and energy issues, particularly in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, Daniel is the author or co-editor of six books on topics such as the St. Lawrence Seaway, border waters, IJC, and Niagara Falls. His book "Natural Allies: Environment, Energy, and the History of US-Canada Relations" was published in summer 2023. His newest book, an environmental history of Lake Ontario, will be published in September 2024. He is now working on a book about Lake Michigan and eventually hopes to eventually write a book on the environmental history of the Great Lakes. Website: https://danielmacfarlane.wordpress.com Twitter: @Danny__Mac__

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