Thoreau, Twitter, Dust, Soul, Language, Sustainability, Imagination, and the Chestnut Trade: Workshops About Place at the Feb. 2013 Residency


Sonja Swift in the field

Place: An Interdisciplinary Conversation for our Vibrant and Vulnerable Times, with faculty members Susan Pearson, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ralph Lutts, and returning students  Josh Pollock & Sonja Swift. Join students and faculty from various programs and perspectives as we wander through a conversation about place, sharing stories and considering such questions as: What is place? What does it mean to you? What do you know about it and wonder about it? What theories do you bring to this inquiry? In what ways does place form, inform, inspire, and collaborate with you in your studies, your work, your art or writing, and your daily life? What actions are you moved to take on its behalf? What actions have you discovered it takes on your behalf? By exploring place as a community of learners, we find greater resonance with each other and learn more about how the various manifestations of place, through the HAS, IMA and SBC programs as well as in Consciousness Studies, Environmental Studies and Transformative Language Arts, can illuminate the stories of who we are, how we live, and what we do in the world. We will celebrate this interdisciplinary inquiry with a panel discussion followed by group conversation among us all. Lend your knowledge, perspective, and experience to our collective understanding on this theme so pertinent to our vibrant and vulnerable times.

483323_10151224120742684_1519042622_nIs Facebook a place? Would Thoreau tweet?, with faculty member James Sparrell. In considering diverse sources ranging from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows to Thoreau, Rebecca Solnitt, and others we will contemplate questions such as, what constitutes place? What are the implications of these examples of social revolution on how we think, experience ourselves, and relate to the world? What is a friend? Why are kitten videos so popular? This workshop will emphasize the process of perspective-taking in developing and investigating relevant questions. I recommend reading Thoreau’s essay, Life without principle available at:

Imagination and Place: Writing as a Practice of Restoration and Reinhabition, with faculty member Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. “Writing, like human language, is engendered not only within the human community but between the human community and the animate landscape, born of the interplay and contact between the human and more-than-human world,” writes David Abram in The Spell of the Sensuous. “The earthly terrain in which we find ourselves, and upon which we depend for all our nourishment, is shot through with suggestive scrawls and traces, from the sinuous calligraphy of rivers and winding across the land, inscribing arroyos and canyons into the parched earth of the desert, to the black slash burned by lightning into the trunk of an old 269625_231780310189061_2631983_nelm.” How can we use words to connect with what’s beyond words? How can we draw on human language to open our perception and connection to other-than-human language? The bioregional call for reinhabitation encourages us to jump out of cultural constructs and definitions that divide us from our bodies, imaginations and the earth so that we can land where we actually are. In this workshop, we’ll explore bioregional theory – drawing on Peter Berg, Stephanie Mills, Gene Marshall, David Abram, and others – and the literary arts as a practice to better hear, see, smell, taste and touch the living earth we are and we inhabit.

Language, Oppression, Place, Space, Health, Identity, Conservation… connecting invisible dots., with faculty member Karen Campbell. Why are some spaces healthier? How do place and identity connect? 260227_1936328723059_3220980_nWhy might linguistic oppression mean loss of the ability to conserve and sustain our environments? What is the difference between place and space? (When does one turn into the other?) Whatever your areas of inquiry, bring them to help us all map some of the gaps in our understanding of how transdisciplinary exploration can be vital to our understanding of our respective fields.

Dust & soul, with faculty member Ellie Epp. Where are we? This two-part workshop will begin with the largest and farthest place we can know and end with the nearest. Dust & soul I: The wide, the whole, the One. We used to think of outer space as a black blank void sparsely decorated with  burning suns, but new space telescopes have given us space blooming in vast brilliant gardens of billowing dust. These clouds are how cosmos creates itself: dust clouds pulled tight burn as stars and then explode and make more dust. But what is cosmic dust? In this first session of Dust & soul we will take up the  ravishing languages of cosmological process (deep field images, bow shocks, dust lanes, dark nebulae, stellar winds, superbubbles, jets and turbulent flows) and cosmological fantasy (the Tulip Nebula, the Dark Tower, the Coalsack, the Mountains of Creation, the Cygnus Wall, the Thousand Ruby Galaxy) – and look carefully at a collection of space telescope images that let us actually see the wide brilliant dances of cosmic self-creation. Dust & soul II: Dearest & nearest Here. ‘Soul’ is one of those madly polysemous and unconstrained words, that has been claimed in many contexts for many purposes and yet seems to retain a feel of something close to home, something we sometimes are, something we want to be. In part II of Dust & soul we will look at this dearest and nearest something and ask what we ourselves can know of it and make of it. What is it? What does it give? What does it need? What is its relation to our physical places – to body, to Earth and even to the vast cosmos beyond?

424067_10200093773403745_854924322_nCulture and Sustainable Economies of Place, drawing on lessons from the field, with faculty member Sarah Bobrow-Williams. This workshop will examine the changing landscape of popular and traditional culture and will present challenges and opportunities for building economies of place that seek to ensure that communities have the rights and resources to exercise preservation of their cultural traditions, to sustain the environment and to create new traditions for the times. Highlighting community based experiences at creating economies of place, one from Penn Center – – in the Sea Islands off the coast of SC and home to the Gullah culture and one in from Tierra Wools – – located in the northern New Mexico Hispano community of Los Ojos, I will share lessons learned from over two decades of work with these organizations focused on reinforcing connections between economy, culture and environment and will engage workshop participants in a discussion about the nature and value of traditional cultures and the role of culture in sustainability and place making.

Local Economies, Currencies and Place: The Chestnut Trade in Southwestern ralph_luttsVirginia, with faculty member Ralph H. Lutts. Efforts to create local economies, including local currencies, are not new. Indeed, economies of this sort were in place though most of U.S. history, especially in rural areas. We will examine a case study from the Blue Ridge of southwestern Virginia. Mountain folks, especially the poorest among them, depended heavily on collecting chestnuts for food, barter, and sale in the early twentieth century. We will explore the chestnut economy and see how a place-based study of local communities can reveal great differences between adjacent counties, economies, and the environments in which they are set. This will also be a case study of how to design a research project, ask and answer research questions, and find and use relevant and diverse sources.

francis_charetPlaces That Have Souls: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Sacred Spaces, with faculty member Francis X. Charet. In traditional cultures certain places are considered special and honored. They become the focus of communal attention, attract interest, and end being incorporated into the collective consciousness of the group in the form of story, myth and ritual. If they attain a wider audience, they become places of pilgrimage. This has happened across human history and across every culture. In modern, more secular times, there are examples as well. This visual and oral presentation will explore some of these aforementioned spaces and theories as to why they emerge and what their function is in human culture.

This entry was posted in Activism, Community Building, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Creativity & Imagination, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Faculty, History & Political Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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