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Workshop: Critical Environmental Education & American Popular Culture

March 16 & 17 2021 (Zoom)
University of Cologne & University of Oregon

Organizers: Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Wheeler (U of Oregon) & JProf. Dr. Judith Rauscher (U of Cologne)
Participants: Scholars from the University of Oregon & the University of Cologne
Guests: Scholars from the Universities of Tübingen and Bamberg

Local Practices - Transatlantic Conversations

Bringing together researchers from Germany and the United States, this workshop invited participants to share their ideas about how to use American popular culture and cultural studies methodologies as a means to teach environmental as well as civic literacy in ways that are accessible to students of a variety of backgrounds. In our current moment of global crisis and political instability, efforts to promote environmental and civic literacy must be based on democratic principles of equality and justice. Teaching environmental cultural studies thus calls for a combination of environmental with disability, feminist, queer, and anti-racist pedagogies. It also demands thinking about as well as modelling critical diversity and inclusion in the classroom, especially when the students are future teachers and educators themselves. As socially engaged critical practices, both American cultural studies and critical environmental pedagogies must respond to the many challenges that the current global environmental crisis poses to societies everywhere. At the same time, they must account for the many different shapes this crisis takes in different places due to historical and persistent social inequalities. By initiating a discussion between scholars from the United States and Germany whose research and teaching focuses on environmental issues and critical pedagogies, the workshop was organized to generate new ideas for critical environmental education, both in terms of a more diverse environmental cultural studies curriculum and site-specific/ transatlantic pedagogical practices.

Workshop Schedule

Tuesday, March 16: Local Practices

  • 6.00-6.30 p.m. Introductions (Betsy Wheeler & Judith Rauscher)
    • Who we are/ Where we are

  • 6.30-7.00: Presentations + Discussion
    • Stephen Rust (U of Oregon) “Using Popular Media and Site-based Learning to Reimagine Ecoliteracy”
    • Manuel Geßner & Youssef Mahfouz (U of Cologne): “One school, one book - Teaching Environmental Awareness through The Lorax by Dr. Seuss” (student project)

    • Verena Wurth (U of Cologne): “Serial Ecologies of New Golden Age Television: Conceptualizing Seriality, Ecology, and Eco-Pedagogy”
    • Gordon Sayre (U of Oregon): “The Humanity of the Car: Automobility, Agency, and Autonomy”

  • 7.45-8.00: Wrap up: Situated Practices (Betsy Wheeler & Judith Rauscher)

Wednesday, March 17: Transatlantic Conversations

  • 6.00-6.15 p.m.: Welcome (Betsy Wheeler & Judith Rauscher)
  • 6.15-7.15 p.m.: Presentations + Discussion
    • Katrina Maggiuili (U of Oregon): “Critiquing the Environmentalist Rhetoric of Fear in the College Classroom"
    • Roman Bartosch (U of Cologne): "Scaling Crisis: Critical Environmental Education and the Affordances of Film"
    • Sarah Wald (U of Oregon) “Unnaturalizing the Normative Powers of Nature: Teaching Popular Culture within Environmental Studies"

  • 7.30-8.00 p.m.: Wrap Up (Betsy Wheeler & Judith Rauscher)
    • Where can we go from here?