Environmental Humanities: The Question of Nature

14–15 November 2013, The University of Queensland

The Academy of Humanities 44th Annual Symposium was convened by Professors Gay Hawkins FAHA and Peter Harrison FAHA, and jointly hosted by the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies and the Centre for the History of European Discourses at The University of Queensland.

What is the nature of nature? The sciences and humanities have wrestled with this question for centuries, and the variety of answers are testament to how promiscuous and elusive the concept of nature is. In recent years the urgency of this question has intensified as we are confronted with increasing environmental crises and losses. From climate change to species extinction nature presents significant material, social and intellectual challenges. The humanities have responded to these challenges with vigour and the recent growth of innovative work under the rubric of the environmental humanities is evidence of this.  

This new work builds on a long history of humanities scholarship that has highlighted the ways in which nature is entangled with culture. From romanticism to natural philosophy the humanities have played a key role in understandings of natural environments and their diverse relations to the social. What is distinctive about the contemporary environmental humanities is the ways in which this work is engaging with and enriching scientific analyses of nature.


  • Professor Emeritus Jane Carruthers FRSSAf, ASSAf, University of South Africa
    'The Question of Nature, or, the Nature of the Question?' [Abstract.pdf 65kb]
  • Professor Tom Griffiths FAHA, The Australian National University
    'Environmental History, Australian Style' [Abstract.pdf 71kb]
  • Professor Iain McCalman AO FASSA FAHA, The University of Sydney
    'Discovering Ecology: A Poet, a Painter and a Forester Save the Reef' [Abstract.pdf 67kb]
  • Professor Peter Harrison FAHA, The University of Queensland
    'Nature – Creation – Environment: Conceptions of the Natural World, Aristotle to Attenborough' [Abstract.pdf 71kb]
  • Professor Stephen Gaukroger FAHA, The University of Sydney
    'The Problem of the Nature of Life in the Eighteenth Century' [Abstract.pdf 71kb]
  • Mr Christian Witte, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts [Biographical note.pdf 38kb]
  • Dr Thom van Dooren, The University of New South Wales
    'Life at the Edge of Extinction: Spectral Crows, Haunted Landscapes and the Environmental Humanities' [Abstract.pdf 76kb]
  • Professor Ross Gibson FAHA, The University of Sydney
    'A Map of Millions of Road Movies' [Abstract.pdf 72kb]
  • Dr Felicity Collins, La Trobe University
    'Bruised Landscapes: Nature’s Blue-Grey-Purple Vista on Screen' [Abstract.pdf 77kb]
  • Professor Lesley Head FAHA FASSA, University of Wollongong
    'The Fungibility of Plants? The Example of Wheat' [Abstract.pdf 72kb]
  • Dr Matthew Kearnes, The University of New South Wales
    'A New Heaven and a New Earth: The Preformation of Soil Carbon'
  • Professor Gay Hawkins FAHA, The University of Queensland
    'Branding Water: The Role of Hydrogeology and the French State in the Evolution of Evian' [Abstract.pdf 70kb]


The programme is available. [.pdf 197kb]
AAH 2013 Symposium Poster
Address: 3 Liversidge Street
Acton, Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: (+612) 6125 9860
Fax: (+612) 6125 9142