UAS success: Lit & environment symposium

UAS hosts symposium for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment June 14-17
Mike Hekkers explains glaciology to attendees of the literature and environment symposium hosted by the University of Alaska Southeast. (Derek Sheffield)

Approximately 130 scholars, writers, students and community members met to explore papers, writing and concepts surrounding the symposium theme, “Environment, Culture, and Place in a Rapidly Changing North.”

The attendees came from as far away as Taiwan and Germany, and many came from Canada. Most attendees stayed on campus and explored the area through planned excursions that included trips to the Mendenhall Glacier, a tour of Juneau’s “toxic” sites, a tour of Juneau’s Alaska Native geography, a whale-watching excursion, and a mostly-local salmon barbecue at Auke Recreation Area.

Symposium planners, professors of English Kevin Maier and Sarah Jaquette Ray, organized the event with the help of students during the Spring semester through a unique professional development course they taught in preparation for the symposium. One success of the symposium was that it helped to expose issues of Alaska Native identity, with respect to “place” and “environment,” to a broader academic audience.

A faculty attendee from Oberlin college posted in his blog, “There was an impressive focus on Indigenous Studies at the conference. This was established at the start of the conference as Marie Olson welcomed us to Lingìt Aanì prior to our keynote from Julie Cruikshank, the author of Do Glaciers Listen? The final day of the conference included a plenary address by Ernestine Hayes, author of Blonde Indian, after which the dominant questions from the audience seemed to be: “When are you going to publish your remarks?” “How can I get a copy to share with others?” There was a Native Juneau tour of which I heard rave reviews, and that’s not even mentioning all the panels.”

Maier and Ray plan to continue to explore the possibility of editing a collection inspired by the symposium theme and presentations.


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