Back to All Events

Environments of Modernity: A University of Pennsylvania Symposium

  • Slought 4017 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA, 19104 United States (map)

What does it mean to think about environment in the twenty-first century? Recent work across the humanities and social sciences has begun to destabilize our idea of the environment as a singular, universal, and natural context for life. As scholars envision a more radically interdependent relationship between the human and nonhuman, the meanings ascribed to terms like environment and environmentalismare shifting in ways linked to practices of capitalism and imperialism; dynamics of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion; and intensified digital networks and proliferating media objects.

“Environments of Modernity” brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to assess the cultural, historical, and political affordances of the environment concept for contemporary thought. As we come to appreciate the interdependence of humanity and environment, scholars are called upon to rethink the conditions of political and historical agency in the modern world. If the idea of a singular environment depends on the untenable idea of a singular humanity, then how can humanists and social scientists theorize environmentalisms responsive to the conflicting needs of individuals, communities, and species?

The symposium aims to develop new approaches that re-conceptualize both of its central terms,  environment and modernity. What kinds of structures and phenomena comprise an environment—the natural world, media technologies and infrastructures, a mood or a feeling in the air? How do culture and aesthetic representation shape our understanding of environmental forces, and to what extent do cultural practices not only represent but also produce the environments of modernity?

For more information:


Thursday, March 22nd at the Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut St.:

5:00-5:15 pm — Opening Remarks: Conference Organizers

5:15 – 6:30 pm — Opening Presentation: John Durham Peters

6:30 – 7:00 pm — Drinks Reception, Slought Foundation

Friday, March 23rd at the Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut St.:

9:00 – 9:30 am — Breakfast

9:30 – 10:30 am — Speaker: Supriya Nair

10:30 – 11:30 am — Speaker: Kate Marshall

11:30 – 11:45 am — Coffee Break

11:45 – 1:00 pm — Graduate Student Roundtable

1:00 – 2:00 pm — Lunch Break (lunch not provided at conference)

2:00 – 3:00 pm — Speaker: Melody Jue

3:00 – 4:00 pm — Speaker: Robin Nagle

4:00 – 4:15 pm — Coffee Break

4:15 – 5:30 pm — Closing Roundtable with Penn Faculty

Participants: Etienne Benson, Rahul Mukherjee, Paul Saint-Amour, Bethany Wiggin

5:30 – 7:00 pm — Catered Dinner for Attendees, Slought Foundation


Natalie Amleshi
Micah Del Rosario
Sam Waterman
Nicole Welk-Joerger
Aylin Malcolm
Aaron Bartels-Swindells
Nick Millman
Orchid Tierney

Co-Sponsored by: Penn Arts and Sciences, Slought Foundation, GAPSA, Wolf Humanities Center, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, Price Lab for Digital Humanities, University of Pennsylvania Cinema Studies,  University of Pennsylvania English Department, the Modernism and Twentieth Century Reading Group, the Latitudes Reading Group, and the Anthropocene Reading Group.