Photo by Elizabeth Hennessy

Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds: Ethics, Science, and Power

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for news about the March 6-8, 2020 international graduate conference,Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds: Land, Water, Food with featured guests Marisol de la Cadena, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Cleo Woelfle-Erksine. Calls for papers and workshops to come in Fall 2019. We hope you’ll join us!

Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds” brings together researchers across multiple disciplines to carve out new terrain at the underexplored intersection of multispecies studies and political ecology. These fields share a broad concern about what kinds of life are able to thrive in the so-called Anthropocene, yet often speak past each other—political ecology focusing on institutional critique to promote social justice and multispecies scholars attending more to the ethics of encounters among human and nonhuman life. The workshop will build a conversation at the intersection of these two trajectories to consider the following questions: How should we and nonhuman others live together? How have entangled histories of colonial and capitalist exploitation shaped contemporary configurations among humans and other species? How do class, racial, gender, and other politics shape multispecies encounters? How can recognizing multiple forms of life reframe techno-scientific management? How might attention to multispecies ethics redefine the politics and structures of environmental justice?

In biweekly meetings, we discuss emerging literature across these fields and workshop research in progress. We also run a series of day-long writing workshops with external scholars. In addition to helping coalesce and sustain a campus conversation on these themes, this shared work will culminate in a jointly authored manuscript and a cross-institutional funding proposal that focuses on enacting the type of grounded research that can emerge from this productive theoretical intersection.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes Essay Contest

This essay contest invites UW-Madison undergraduate students to explore how this year’s Go Big Read, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan, addresses the joint issues of social and environmental justice for humans and nonhumans living around the lakes.

The top three essays will receive a cash prize and an offer of publication in Illumination journal!

Submit your essays by May 10th to

Some ideas for possible essay topics are offered below, but writers are free to explore the connections between social and environmental justice in Egan’s book and follow their own interests. Essay length is open-ended. So, that assignment you’re working on? It fits!

  • What are the key questions about social and environmental justice for humans and other-than-humans that emerge from The Death and Life of the Great Lakes? Egan describes many of the negative impacts of invasive species on other animal species and on human communities. How can environmental management be tailored towards care for human and non-human communities? How can scientists, managers, community members, and other-than-humans sort through these difficult questions together? How can (and do) our institutions assist or prevent those solutions?
  • What does it mean to read this book in the current political climate? How do environmental debates about nativity, invasion, and ecosystem boundaries influence our understandings of invasive species? How might those powerful discourses about invasive species influence decision-making about vulnerable human communities?
  • How might some of the animals in this text tell a different story? What version of recent Great Lakes history would the zebra or quagga mussel narrate? The lamprey? The lake trout? Would it look like a tale of triumph against adversity? And what would be the negative or positive consequences of that shift of view?
  • The Death and Life of the Great Lakes begins with European settlement of the Great Lakes region. How might a different historical starting point change the perspective of invasive species impacts or the direction of future decision-making about the Great Lakes? How might that shift of view deepen or challenge the story that unfolds or offer new directions for environmental justice and equity? How might it change a sense of who (or what) has expert knowledge about the Great Lakes region?

Contact Laura Perry (Project Assistant, Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds) at with any questions about the essay contest. And don’t forget to submit your essays to by May 10th!

Poster Essay Contest Spring 2019

Elizabeth Hennessy, History and Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, English

Sainath Suryanarayanan, Community and Environmental Sociology

Katarzyna Beilin, Spanish and Portuguese

Tony Goldberg, Pathobiological Sciences

Claudia Calderon, Horticulture

Stay in the loop about Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds events and meetings by subscribing to the listserv for occasional emails. To subscribe, send an email to: