Here is a link to a new visual essay, Among the Ruins, published in the online journal The Goose (2018). An early version of this work was presented at the 2011 Green Words/Green Worlds conference in Toronto. The images were shown as part of the 2013 exhibition, Abject Transformations, at Arcadia Art Gallery, Toronto.
In June I attended a conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, Rust/Resistance: Works of Recovery, at Wayne State University in Detroit. I presented media and writing from my project in progress, Borderland Memories in Lower Silesia. It was my first time back to Detroit in many years and my only previous encounter with the city was at the Greyhound bus depot, en route to Ann Arbor Film Festival. As I walked among the ruins and some wonderful old architectures, I found myself in a city of hidden stories with much heart. Filmmaker Patrick Keiller wrote, “The present day flâneur carries a camera” and travels in some kind of vehicle (The View From the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes, 2013).
A traveling film festival goes to some interesting places that a big metropolitan festival does not. There’s culture in the rural, and expanded landscapes inform regional communities. Conversations on the Lake, an environmental documentary about the rural places of my childhood in towns bordering Lake Superior, has screened in several Northern Ontario venues and festivals, traveled through parts of India in Voices From the Waters, and in rural southern USA locations in the Ozark Shorts Film Festival, Ozark Mountains regional festival, USA.
These rural communities are participants in helping to shape critical environmental discourses around water, land, and community, within multi-vocal themes and expressions.
Distance is measured differently in places where the land is wide with many spaces mostly populated by more than human others. In Northern Ontario where I grew up, we could visit our neighbours two hundred kilometers away for lunch and be home later that day for supper. Now I live in Toronto where driving a mere ninety kilometers north constitutes a road trip. Recently I was north again, to participate as a mentor on workshops about knowledge mobilization and multi-media, produced by Docs North in Thunder Bay, home of the Bay Street Film Festival, and some of us there had a conversation about how distance is embodied in the north for those who live there, and still for those of us who went south …
“Red Motel” (2005) from the series Northland.
I am presenting my published writing, reading from the chapter I contributed to Working on Earth: Class and Environmental Justice (2015), on a conference panel with the book’s editors, Christina Robertson and Jennifer Westerman (see post on the book below). The conference is How Class Works, at the Center for Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY, June 9-11, 2016. For conference information go here: http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/workingclass/hcw2016.html
Much of my doctoral research was focused on themes of class, beginning with the work of cultural theorist Raymond Williams, that great proponent of lifelong learning founded in public pedagogy and open, shared knowledge. As early as the 1950s, Williams supported new media and film as democratizing educational technologies that, though polluted by commercial interests, can also promote a more critically engaged general public (see McIlroy & Westwood (1993). Border country: Raymond Williams in adult education. Leicester: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.)
In the neoliberal global marketplace, the rhetoric of classlessness persists as a cultural imaginary. Meanwhile class divisions continue to be reproduced as economic inequalities intensify for much of today’s workforce, whatever their colour of collar, those fated to increasingly precarious employment. As we journey ever more deeply into environmental collapse, let us keep our spirits up as we continue to produce and engage with works and means of challenging that trajectory of doom.
Our conference panel is called “Working on Earth: Essays on Class, Environment, Community & Justice” on Friday, June 10 at 3:45 PM.
This promises to be a timely and important discussion, and I’m happy to be part of the conversation as I look forward to a wealth of great presentations.
A new film by Michael Zweig, Director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life, tells the story of how international worker solidarity changed labour law in Iraq, guaranteeing rights such as collective bargaining, and prohibiting sexual harassment at work, and child labour. The entire short film can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/164793529
I recently saw The Measure of a Man (2015) , a cinematic masterwork by Stéphane Brizé, which brilliantly interrogates themes of class. Here we witness a Foucauldian panoptical reality, as Snowden’s nightmare and Orwellian fantasy collide in a fusion of complex ethical struggles and human grace.
Image: “Old Mine Cart” (2007) from the series Northland, by Edie Steiner.
Here is another book review I’ve written for The Goose – a publication by the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC). The text is Adrian J. Ivakhiv’s “Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature.” For serious film studies or ecological cinema studies readers, this book is an amazing resource. Read my review at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/thegoose/vol13/iss2/28
This collection of essays examines the relationship between environmental injustice and the exploitation of working-class people. Twelve scholars from the fields of environmental humanities and the humanistic social sciences explore connections between the current and unprecedented rise of environmental degradation, economic inequality, and widespread social injustice in the United States and Canada. The authors challenge prevailing cultural narratives that separate ecological and human health from the impacts of modern industrial capitalism. Essay themes range from how human survival is linked to nature to how the use and abuse of nature benefit the wealthy elite at the expense of working-class people and the working poor as well as how climate change will affect cultures deeply rooted in the land. Ultimately, Working on Earth calls for a working-class ecology as an integral part of achieving just and sustainable human development. Available at University of Nevada Press: http://unevadapress.com/Browse/Titles/Working%20on%20Earth/W;2289
“Working on Earth is a significant contribution to the literature on class, labor, personal history, and environmentalism. Indeed, it is one of the first volumes of its kind to explain the ways in which class and the environment are powerfully, and sometimes tragically, entwined.” — Kathleen Newman, associate professor of English and cultural studies, Carnegie Mellon University, and blogger for the Center for Working Class Studies
A new double issue of The Goose is here! Published by the Association for Literature, Culture, and Environment in Canada, this journal of great environmental writing and images features my review (page 197) of Jan Conns’ brilliant poetry text, Edge Effects (Brick Books, 2012). The Goose is available free online.
See the Summer 2012 edition of The Goose, a Canadian journal of great environmental writing: poetry, eco-art, creative and critical essays, for my review of Ursula Vaira’s beautiful poetry collection, And See What Happens: The Journey Poems (2011), which details her journeys along the British Columbia coastline by kayak and Coast Salish canoe. Read it on page 89, and see The Goose for amazing articles, stories, poetry, beautiful photographs and artworks, available free online at the following link.