Anthropocene: Biographies

Bettina Aptheker is Distinguished Professor and UC Presidential Co-Chair in Feminist, Critical Race, and Ethnic Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz. An award-winning scholar and teacher, she has shaped feminist theory at the intersection of activism and the “intimate politics” she helped draw into being. Her influential memoir carries that name (Intimate Politics 2006).

Nora Bateson is a filmmaker, lecturer, writer, as well as director and producer of the award-winning documentary film “An Ecology of Mind” (2010), a portrait of her father Gregory Bateson’s way of thinking. She has developed curricula for schools in northern California and produced multimedia projects on intercultural and ecological understanding. Currently she is developing her next film and writing a book about the practical application of systems thinking and complexity theory in everyday life, entitled, “Small Arcs of Larger Circles.”

Prize-winning historian Kate Brown offers landscape biographies through which we might recover the lost histories of modernist wastelands. Her recent book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (2013) is the first definitive account of the great plutonium disasters of the United States and the Soviet Union. Brown is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

As an anthropologist, Nils Bubandt has learned to be equally at home with witches, protesters, and mud volcanoes. Co-convener of Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA), with Anna Tsing, Bubandt is Professor with Special Responsibilities at Aarhus University and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Ethnos (with Mark Graham). He is the author of two about-to-emerge books on post-authoritarian politics in Indonesia.

Interdisciplinary scholar James Clifford has been a major force reshaping the humanities of the late 20th and early 21st century. From his edited volume Writing Culture (with George Marcus, 2010) to the trilogy recently concluded in Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty- First Century (2013), his work has created new kinds of scholarship to address the challenges of decolonization, globalization, and the resurgence of indigenous politics. Clifford is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Christopher Connery, Professor of World Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz and Ziqiang Professor of Cultural Studies at Shanghai University, works across multiple fields, including contemporary China, the figure of the ocean in global and in capitalist thought, and the social and cultural movements of the global 1960s. He is also a member of the Caotaiban (Grass Stage) theater company in Shanghai, China.

As the preeminent environmental historian of this century, William Cronon shows us the making of American landscapes. Cronon is Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of many acclaimed books, including two that are soon to emerge: Saving Nature in Time: The Environmental Past and the Human Future and The Portage, a history of Portage, Wisconsin, from the end of the last Ice Age to the present.

Carla Freccero is an innovative literary critic who juxtaposes diverse sources of insight, from posthumanism to Renaissance studies, in her writing on animals, popular culture, literature, and critical theory. She holds the position of Professor in the departments of Literature, History of Consciousness, and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is the author of Queer/Early/Modern (2006) and the editor, with Claire Jean Kim, of a special issue of American Quarterly on Species, Race, Sex.

Geographer Margaret Fitzsimmons asks fundamental questions about the concepts through which we know nature. Working at the lively edge between environmental politics and social theory, she offers critical understandings of both policy and scholarship. Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she is finishing an STS study of the development of institutional ecology in its first hundred years, entitled Making Ecology Work.

Zoologist Peter Funch studies arthropods and microscopic organisms with a fascination for the diversity of life. One life form he discovered lives on the mouthparts of lobsters; this previously unknown phylum has a complicated life cycle with alternating generations, different free individuals, and distinct asexual and sexual phases. Associate Professor of Genetics, Ecology, and Evolution at Aarhus University, his publications can be found at

Artist Elaine Gan makes clocks for worlds otherwise. She explores intermingling temporalities of humans, nonhumans, and machines that materialize through sites of encounter, play, and memory. She is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in Architecture & Environmental Structures, and is currently engaged in doctoral studies at UCSC. She designed the conference posters and joins AURA as art director in fall 2014.

Deborah Gordon studies collective behavior, how it works and how it evolves. . She studies how ant colonies regulate their behavior without central control, and explores analogies with other systems that work collectively, such as the Internet, the immune system, and the brain. She is Professor of Biology at Stanford University. Publications can be found at

An original and pathbreaking scholar, Donna Haraway has contributed to bringing many new fields into existence, including feminist science studies and multispecies storytelling. Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness program at University of California Santa Cruz, Haraway is the author of many books that extend the scientific imagination, including When Species Meet (2007).

As one of the most influential writers of our time, Ursula K. Le Guin has stunned and stimulated many kinds of readers: from children to elders, and from general readers to natural scientists, artists, humanists, and anthropologists. She is the author of many books, poems and short stories including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974). Her honors and awards include Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, and PEN-Malamud. Le Guin is widely recognized for exploring the radical possibilities of society in her work—and the potential for varied ways humans might interact with the environment. She has consistently stretched Western environmental imaginations, inspiring what one scholar has called an “environmental paradigm shift.”

In her collaborative research with science studies pioneer John Law, anthropologist Marianne Lien explores the limits of human-animal ethnography through intimate engagement with the infrastructures of salmon domestication. Her project Newcomers to the farm: Atlantic salmon between the wild and the industrial (also forthcoming with UC Press) inspires further queries into the histories and practices of domestication in the Arctic and beyond. She is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo.

Anthropologist Andrew Mathews’ training in forest ecology has allowed him to pioneer a distinctive mix of natural history observation and social analysis. His book Instituting nature: Authority, expertise, and power in Mexican forests (2011) offers a subtle analysis of forestry and forests in action, and won the Harold and Margaret Sprout award of the International Studies Association (2012) and was runner up for the Julian Steward Award of the Environment section of the American Anthropological Association (2013). Mathews is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Margaret McFall-Ngai’s research on the role of Vibrio bacteria in the development of the light organs of Hawaiian bobtailed squid revolutionized modern biology by drawing attention to the constitutive role of interspecies interactions. She is Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at University of Wisconsin, Madison; a list of her publications is found at

Biologist Jens Mogens Olesen uses network theory for understanding ecological assemblages. In his work, he focuses upon all kinds of ecological interactions, and attempts to join them in a unified framework. Olesen is Professor of Ecology at Aarhus University; his publications can be found at

Ingrid Parker is Jean Langenheim Professor of Plant Ecology and Evolution at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She studies the biology of invasive species; ecological and evolutionary dynamics of novel plant-pathogen interactions; anthropogenic influences on the evolution of domesticated species; and the conservation of rare plant species in California. For publications, see

Environmental historian Maya Peterson explores the inner workings of empires and how they function by focusing on how the physical environment of an empire might open up new avenues for thinking about modernity and colonial relationships. She is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz; her new book-in-progress is Pipe Dreams: Water, Technology, and the Remaking of Central Asia in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, 1848-1941.

In his recently published New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition (2013), Eric Porter joins photographer Lewis Watts in a look at post-Katrina New Orleans. This work brings forward his long-term interests in Black cultural and intellectual history as well as popular music and jazz studies. Porter is Professor of History, History of Consciousness, and American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Anne Pringle investigates species whose life histories and body plans seem very different from our own. She asks how ecological forces shape symbioses, and focuses on fungal associations with plants. She is Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Her publications can be found at

With training and background bridging the biomedical sciences and sociology, Jenny Reardon is the founder and director of the Science and Justice Research Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This innovative program brings together students and faculty across the natural and social sciences, engineering, and the arts. Reardon is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at UC Santa Cruz. Her research opens languages for reflection on new forms of technoscience; her forthcoming book is The Post-Genomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, Knowledge After the Genome.

Through her writing on extinction, ethics, and Aboriginal ecological philosophy, Deborah Bird Rose has been a key figure in enlivening the environmental humanities. Her work, based on long-term research with Aboriginal people in Australia, focuses on multispecies communities in this time of climate change. She is Professor in the Environmental Humanities Program, University of New South Wales, Sydney, and co-founder and co-editor of the new journal Environmental Humanities. Her most recent book is Wild dog dreaming: love and extinction (2011).

Writing in the interstices between cultural studies, memoir, and environmental history, Lesley Stern expands the ways we see multispecies worlds. Stern will read from her genre-bending book-in-process, in which a natural/social landscape on the southern California-Mexico border comes to life as both cosmos and microcosm. Her dream-like work The Smoking Book (1999) has been described as “an innovative, hybrid form of writing…at once intensely personal and kaleidoscopically international.

Biologist Jens-Christian Svenning is a research leader in the movement to bring megafauna back to our landscapes—to replace human-caused extinctions and restore ecosystem functions. He has published widely in the field of macro- and community ecology, including on the effects of climate change on species diversity and distributions, with a special interest in disequilibrium dynamics lasting from decades to millions of years. He is professor in geospatial ecology at Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, and member of the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA) group. His publications are listed at

As an anthropologist with a life-long interest in the worlds salmon and humans create together, Heather Swanson pushes anthropology not only toward multispecies interactions but also into globe-spanning connections and comparisons. Swanson is a postdoctoral researcher with the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA) project and the winner of the 2013 Anthropology and the Environment Society’s Rappaport Prize. She is co-organizer, with Anna Tsing, of this conference.

Anna Tsing spins common threads of curiosity across natural science, humanities, arts, and social science through this conference, which also coordinates her work as a professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz and as Niels Bohr Professor with the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). Tsing’s forthcoming book is Living in ruins: precarity and the search for the elusive matsutake.

John Weber is the founding director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Institute, which helped organize this conference, is an emerging hub for artists, scientists, and humanists. Weber is a broadly experienced museum steward and curator.

Geographer Jessica Weir is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Western Sydney. She works with indigenous peoples on philosophies of country and issues of native title and ecological and social justice. She is the author of Murray River Country: An Ecological Dialogue with Traditional Owners (2009).

Thomas Schwarz Wentzer explores the hermeneutics of responsiveness as an element of the basic question “What is a human being?” Associate Professor of Philosophy at Aarhus University and member of the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA) group, he is author of numerous publications concerning German philosophical thought, including most recently an article on “Finitude” (2014).

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