At NYUAD researchers, faculty, and students are committed to learning about the environment by using research as a tool to understand it. The eARThumanities initiative brings together these researchers who come from different disciplines and fields.  Featured below are environmental research works and publications from faculty and researchers. 

China and the Geopolitics of Rare Earths

By Sophia Kalantzakos, Global Distinguished Professor, Environmental Studies and Public Policy, NYUAD 

Rare earths are elements that are found in the Earth’s crust, and are vital ingredients for the production of a wide variety of high tech, defense, and green technologies-everything from iPhones and medical technologies to wind turbines, efficiency lighting, smart bombs, and submarines. While they are not particularly “rare” in availability, they are difficult and expensive to mine. Yet, China has managed to gain control over an estimated 97 percent of the rare earth industry since the 1990s through cheap production, high export taxes, and artificial limitations of supply.


Islands of Hertiage

By Nathalie Peutz, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, NYUAD

Soqotra, the largest island of Yemen’s Soqotra Archipelago, is one of the most uniquely diverse places in the world. A UNESCO natural World Heritage Site, the island is home not only to birds, reptiles, and plants found nowhere else on earth, but also to a rich cultural history and the endangered Soqotri language. Within the span of a decade, this Indian Ocean archipelago went from being among the most marginalized regions of Yemen to promoted for its outstanding global value. Islands of Heritage shares Soqotrans’ stories to offer the first exploration of environmental conservation, heritage production, and development in an Arab state.


China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet

By Yifei Li, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU Shanghai; Global Network Assistant Professor, NYU

What does it mean for the future of the planet when one of the world’s most durable authoritarian governance systems pursues “ecological civilization”? Despite its staggering pollution and colossal appetite for resources, China exemplifies a model of state-led environmentalism which concentrates decisive political, economic, and epistemic power under centralized leadership. On the face of it, China seems to embody hope for a radical new approach to environmental governance.  


Sign Climacteric

By Jill Magi, Assistant Arts Professor, NYUAD 

When asked, I proposed a wet chapbook on “the climacteric” as a Hostile Book.

Climacteric: a crucial event, a tipping point in earth’s history and in a woman’s body, in botany regarded as “ripening on the vine,” and in western medicine, who regards the woman as useful only if procreating, synonymous with “decline.” There is a narrowed vasomotor tolerance range leading to an over-response to heat; there is sweat and its accompanying social revulsion; there is thin sleep, exhaustion, and the desire for retreat.

A Hostile Book: a paper book sealed in a zip-lock bag called GLAD with at least one tablespoon of water. A sweaty book. The reader chooses to open, to touch the wet pages, to try and read it, or to leave it sealed up to possibly break down and transform—both choices being ways to read/touch the planet and the body of a woman not young but knowing, on her way to death but not ending.

This long poem is part of a longer work featuring a middle-aged woman walking through an imaginary city that is not quite the Middle East and not quite the US Midwest. Situated in many middles, she feels anything but average and dull. She feels the heat of insights acutely as she investigates cellular respiration, citizenship and so-called free speech, the feminized labor of teaching, and the menopause instruction to “give birth to yourself.” As a poet and artist this last bit of advice is useless; she’s only ever birthed herself. Menopausal whales, good at distributing resources, make an appearance.

This Hostile Book may be a punk text—but it is not the singular voice of a rebel in her twenties breaking away from family, acquiring addictions, wearing fish-nets with cut-off shorts and so on. This life-stage language is pacing itself, just as this subject must: warding off exhaustion and bullshit she can’t control so as to be receptive to self while optimally networked with others.


Temporary People

By Deepak Unnikrishnan, Lecturer, Writing Program, NYUAD 

In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Brought in to construct and serve the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force is not given the option of citizenship. Some ride their luck to good fortune. Others suffer different fates. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.

Combining the linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan maps a new, unruly global English and gives personhood back to the anonymous workers of the Gulf.

Paleoperformance: The Emergence of Theatricality as Social Practice

By Yann-Pierre Montelle 

In the Upper Paleolithic period, over 30,000 years ago, archaeological and art historical evidence reveals the very beginnings of dramatic performance as social practice and even the institutionalization of theatricality. This work examines the emergence of theatricality at the birth of human societies.

Insurgent Habitats: On Media and Environment

By Dale HudsonAssociate Teaching Professor of Film and New Media and Curator of Film and New Media, NYUAD 

Dale Hudson (Associate Teaching Professor of Film and New Media and Curator of Film and New Media, NYUAD) and Patricia R. Zimmermann (Ithaca College) have contributed a manifesto titled Insurgent Habitats: On Media and Environment, for the March issue of Film Quarterly. The manifesto advocates for media makers, programmers, and scholars to think environmentally in response to global warming, catastrophe, and extraction capitalism. 

It extends their collaborative research in Thinking through Digital Media: Transnational Environments and Locative Places (2015). They have also been invited among key actors and thinkers in the media-environment nexus to contribute a short think piece in a thematic stream for the inaugural issue of Media and Environment, forthcoming this year, which is part of ongoing collaborative research into how artists are collaborating with scientists, activists, and students to make media that responds to urgent matters.

The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals

By Charles Siebert, Professor of Practice of Literature and Creative Writing, NYUAD

An award-winning journalist’s all-night vigil with a retired chimp performer named Roger blossoms into a whole new way to regard our fellow creatures as well as ourselves. While researching a recent “New York Times Magazine” cover story about chimpanzees, Charles Siebert visited a retirement home for former ape movie stars and circus entertainers in Wauchula, Florida known as the Center for Great Apes. There Siebert encountered Roger, a twenty-eight-year-old former Ringling Brothers star who seemed convinced he knew the author from some other time and place. Haunted by Roger’s response, Siebert takes up residence at the Center for Great Apes and, in the course of one late-night visit to a sleepless Roger’s quarters, gets to the bottom of this mysterious connection between himself and his simian counterpart. The result is “The Wauchula Woods Accord,” a strikingly written, wide-ranging physical and metaphysical foray into the increasingly fraught frontier between humans and other animals; a journey that encompasses many of the author’s encounters with chimpanzees and other animals, as well as the latest scientific discoveries that underscore our intimate biological bonds not only with our nearest kin, but with far more remote-seeming life-forms. By journey’s end, the reader arrives at a deeper understanding both of Roger and of our numerous other animal selves, a recognition–an accord– that carries a new sense of responsibility for how we view and treat all animals, including ourselves.

The EU, US, and China Tackling Climate Change: Policies and Alliances for the Anthropocene (Routledge, 2017).

By Sophia Kalantzakos, Global Distinguished Professor, Environmental Studies and Public Policy, NYU

The feeling of optimism that followed the COP 21 Paris Conference on Climate Change requires concrete action and steadfast commitment to a process that raises a number of crucial challenges: technological, political, social, and economic. As climate change worsens, new robust leadership is imperative.The EU, US and China Tackling Climate Change examines why a close collaboration between the EU and China may result in the necessary impetus to solidify a vision and a roadmap for our common future in the Anthropocene. Kalantzakos introduces a novel perspective and narrative on climate action leadership through an analysis of international relations. She argues that a close EU-China collaboration, which does not carry the baggage of an imbedded competition for supremacy, may best help the global community move towards a low carbon future and navigate the new challenges of the Anthropocene. Overall, Kalantzakos demonstrates how Europe and China, already strategic partners, can exercise global leadership in an area of crucial common interest through their web of relations, substantial development aid, and the use of soft power tools throughout the developing world.

The Stage Lives of Animals 

By Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English, Drama, Environmental Studies, Program Head of Theater, NYUAD

The Stage Lives of Animals examines what it might mean to make theatre beyond the human. In this stunning collection of essays, Una Chaudhuri engages with the alternative modes of thinking, feeling, and making art offered by animals and animality, bringing insights from theatre practice and theory to animal studies as well as exploring what animal studies can bring to the study of theatre and performance.

As our planet lives through what scientists call “the sixth extinction,” and we become ever more aware of our relationships to other species, Chaudhuri takes a highly original look at the “animal imagination” of well-known plays, performances and creative projects, including works by:

  • Caryl Churchill
  • Rachel Rosenthal
  • Marina Zurkow
  • Edward Albee
  • Tennesee Williams
  • Eugene Ionesco

Covering over a decade of explorations, a wide range of writers, and many urgent topics, this volume demonstrates that an interspecies imagination deeply structures modern western drama.

More&More (The Invisible Oceans)

By Marina Zurkow, NYU Tisch School of the Arts

More&More is an art and research project that explores the language and mechanics of global trade, container shipping, and the exchange of goods. It questions a mercantile structure that by necessity disallows the presence of ocean as a real space in order to flatten the world into a Pangaea of capital. The project is presented in two volumes, released in conjunction with an exhibition of Marina Zurkow’s work (with collaborators Sarah Rothberg, Surya Mattu, and others) at bitforms gallery in New York City in February 2016. This book, More&More (The Invisible Oceans), is a catalog of the exhibition, featuring many full-color images of the art on display (including video stills, bespoke bathing suits, and fungal sculptures), as well as an introduction by Marina Zurkow and a conversation between Zurkow and international curator Kathleen Forde.

“Seeing the Forest for the Village, Nation, and Province: Forestry Policy and Environmental Management in Early-Twentieth-Century Yunnan.”  Twentieth-Century China 39.3 (October 2014): 195–215.

Mark Swislocki, History Program Head, Associate Professor of History, NYUAD

This article by Mark Swislocki compares village, national, and provincial forestry policy in early- twentieth-century China, with a focus on Yunnan, making three important observations. First, by identifying villages as key arenas for the production of forestry policy, it highlights the importance of rethinking the political geography of forestry policy during this period, to establish a proper comparative baseline for evaluating policy implementation. Second, its comparisons reveal diverging interests in forestry at these three levels, ranging from village reforestation for ecological conservation to provincial afforestation for economic development. Third, it shows that policymakers in these three arenas deployed distinctive cultural and political resources to promote their policies. The localized formats and objectives of village policies may have rendered them relatively invisible to national policymakers, who promoted more general and systematic forestry frameworks as novel interventions into a seemingly neglected policy arena that demanded comprehensive and intensive political intervention.