Earlier this year, Colorado College was selected for a $50,000 exploratory grant from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment, which will be used to fund a variety of fascinating events for CC students throughout the upcoming academic year.
LIASE is a competition for liberal arts colleges, and aspires to encourage innovative approaches to Asian Studies teaching and research at the undergraduate level through the lens of the environment and sustainable development.
Associate Professor of Philosophy Marion Hourdequin and Professor of Japanese Joan Ericson were the project leads for the grant. The first of these events will involve the environmental historian Brett Walker. For the 2015-2016 academic year, Walker is the Edwin O. Reischauer Visiting Professor in the Department of History at Harvard University.
Walker is original in his approach as he chooses to study human history in the context of local and global ecological systems.
“Humans refashion the natural world, but the natural world also refashions us,” said Walker in an interview with Montana State University. “Environmental history has forced historians to radically rethink the processes by which Europeans conquered Amerindians, for example. Now, smallpox is as important as Western technologies or cultures.”
He specifically studies Japan for numerous reasons. “Japan is a very interesting country to study, with one of the world’s most powerful economies concentrated in a country that is about the size of Montana,” he said, in the same interview. “It really captured me.”
He will meet with students in Ericson’s First Year Experience (FYE) course, Japanese Culture/Interpreting Asian Cultures. This FYE encompasses multiple aspects of Japanese culture.
The first block, Japanese Culture, presents a critical appreciation of popular Japanese icons that scrutinizes how cultural practices and institutions have evolved and been adapted to symbolize Japan.
The second block, Contemporary Asian Cultures, focuses on the intersection of classical and popular cultural forms with global cultural dynamics that has recast what it means to be Asian.
In addition to meeting with students in the FYE, Walker will also will present a lecture, “Natural and Unnatural Disasters: 3/11, Asbestos, and the Unmaking of Japan’s Modern World.” This talk will be relevant to a broad audience, including those interested in environmental history, Japanese history, Asian studies, public health, and environmental sustainability.
Professor Walker’s talk is supported not only by this grant but by the Asian Studies Program, the History Department, and the Environmental Program.