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Meet the Participants

Spencer Abbe (PhD student, history, University of Oregon) specializes in the environmental history of the Russian Empire, Siberia, and the north Pacific. He is currently working on a dissertation chapter that explores the relationships between volcanoes and indigenous people in Kamchatka. He is unsatisfied with the way that he integrates the story of conquest with the story of the peninsula’s vulcanism and hopes to learn how to interweave these stories and introduce them to audiences unfamiliar with this history.


Nina Amstutz (Assistant Professor, art history, University of Oregon) recently published her first book, Caspar David Friedrich: Nature and the Self (Yale, 2020) and is working on a new project Avian Aesthetics before and after Darwin: A Posthumanist Perspective on the Bowerbird. She works at the intersection of art history, the natural sciences, animals, and the environment. Because she is interested in contributing to the political conversation surrounding animal subjecthood and rights, she wants to develop a writing style that is appropriate for articles in non-academic journals and opinion pieces in newspapers, as well as more accessible, literary books. She hopes that the workshop will help her develop a more literary narrative style to reach a broader audience.


John Arroyo (Assistant Professor, Planning, Public Policy, and Management, University of Oregon) has a background in journalism and twenty years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors as an urban planner, design policy expert, and historic preservationist. He is currently writing an essay for Southeastern Geographer that focuses on how largely undocumented Latinx agricultural workers in Georgia reshape land use amid rising anti-immigrant tension. Through the workshop, he wants to develop a more narrative, literary nonfiction form of writing that prioritizes the experiences of traditionally overlooked, multiply burdened communities.


Hayley Brazier (PhD candidate, history, University of Oregon) is working on a dissertation titled “The Seafloor and Society: Technological Innovation on the Pacific Seabed since 1897.” It explores industrial technologies on the Pacific floor, including oil and gas drilling along California’s seashore; undersea cables on the Alaskan continental shelf; and seafloor scientific laboratories on the deep abyssal plain near British Columbia. She hopes to learn how to keep the story moving at a brisk pace while providing sufficient historical detail to prove her argument and how to treat the ocean as her most important character.


Marcel Brousseau (Contingent Faculty, English/Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon) will work on an essay tentatively titled, “Unmediated, Still Mediated: A Chronicle of 9/11, or the Technics of Tragedy.” The essay will explore September 11, 2001, at a remove of nearly two decades, by balancing a theoretical critique with his own autobiographical account of that day. He earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but as a scholar he learned to appreciate writing in a critically distant, analytical mode. Through the workshop, he hopes to rethink his scholarly writing practice and experiment with writing in a literary voice, inflected with theory.


Mark Carey (Professor of History in the Clark Honors College and the History Department and Head of Environmental Studies, University of Oregon) is an award-winning historian and author of In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society (Oxford, 2010) and “The History of Ice: How Glaciers Became an Endangered Species,” Environmental History (2007), along with many other journal articles, often written in collaboration with scientists. He is currently working on a book manuscript on the relationship between icebergs and society, which he hopes to publish with a trade press. Through the workshop, he hopes to refine his storytelling skills. He especially wants to work on the balance between historical detail, context, argument, and narrative.


Nate Otjen (PhD candidate, Environmental Studies/English, University of Oregon) is working on a dissertation that examines contemporary memorists (such as primatologists) as they craft “alternative selves” to reflect on their relationships with other species. As an undergraduate, he studied creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa. But as a PhD student, he has been frustrated by the few opportunities to write in a literary narrative style that is accessible to a broader public. Writing on multispecies relationships in an accessible mode presents a number of challenges: The English language doesn’t have the words to express the meaningful relations shared between people and other species. For example, the language used to speak of anyone other than humans (e.g., “species,” “nonhuman,” “more than human,” “being,” and “other,” along with scientific and common names) all seem inadequate. He hopes that the workshop can help him to write and see differently, to locate words, expressions, and cadences that can better express a wide range of thoughts and experiences associated with the inhabitants who share this world.


Joseph Sussi (PhD student, art history, University of Oregon) is studying the history of Land Art in the Great Basin, including the use of material resources, the effect on ecosystems, and the artists’ settler-colonial mentalities. He hopes to learn to present complicated concepts and layered histories with greater clarity and develop a voice that is accessible, insightful, and confident.


Taylor Cunningham (MA student, Environmental Humanities, University of Utah) is working on a collection of essays for her MA thesis, titled “Ecologies of Thirst: Water, Climate, and Migration in Arizona’s Borderlands.” The essay she will workshop, “Desert Thirst and the Disappeared,” braids two narratives: a humanitarian water run for migrants crossing in Ironwood Forest National Monument and a spring monitoring trip in Saguaro National Park. Her characters are a young saguaro cactus facing a hotter and drier future and a human being short of water in a desert environment. She hopes the workshop will help her develop her storytelling skills to reach a broader audience.


Wendy Wagner (environmental writer, Portland) is a professional writer who has published novels and short stories in the science fiction and horror genres, and is managing editor of Lightspeed and Nightmare, online magazines. Now she wants to turn to writing narrative nonfiction essays. She will workshop an essay about waste ground—those unused and unloved little bits of land at the edges of freeways, industrial parks, and strip malls, liminal areas that are the last refuges for marginalized people and wild animals. She hopes to develop a more literary narrative voice and strengthen her essay writing skills.


Bart Welling (Associate Professor, English, University of North Florida) has published articles and book chapters on petrocultures, animal studies, William Faulkner, and James Dickey, among other subjects. His current book project is The Emergency Humanities, and he will be workshopping a chapter of that book, “Building Arks.” He hopes to develop a biological and cultural sensibility that dismantles the mutually stultifying divisions between the humanities and the sciences.


Pricilla Ybarra (Associate Professor, English, North Texas University) is the author if Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment (University of Arizona Press, 2016). She is working on a new book project, Abolish!, which, in part, questions the relationships between policing, the sanctity of private property, environmental justice, and indigenous peoples. Through the workshop, she wants to challenge herself to write for a broad audience.


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