Environment Seminar: The Strange Case Of…Re-enchanting Research: Sentient Landscapes, Ecotones, And Writing Fiction In The Anthropocene

When and Where

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 12:10 pm to 2:00 pm
Room SS2102
Sidney Smith Building
100 St. George Street Toronto ON


Hilary Cunningham


Abstract: Hilary Cunningham (Scharper) is an anthropologist and Canadian novelist working at the intersections of ethnography and fiction. In this talk she discusses her creative writing in relation to anthropocentric forms of research; the challenges of institutional prejudices; and posthumanist yearnings for forms of research which re-position humans and nonhumans in mutually-flourishing ways.

Brief Bio: Hilary Cunningham (Scharper) is a cultural anthropologist and a Canadian novelist. Her academic work centers on boundary-making as a multi-faceted encounter with “nature”—one which ultimately generates certain types of human-nature interactions while excluding or marginalizing other kinds. Because “borders” can encompass geophysical spaces, metaphysical categories, ecological zones, as well as human and non-human actors, Hilary focuses on “nature” itself as a kind of borderscape. Her current research on animal sanctuaries develops this approach through the concept of “gated ecologies,” i.e., nature-borderscapes in which human and nonhuman marginalization (and destruction) unfold as a contingent, interconnected reality.
Hilary also publishes literary fiction and is associated with a newly-minted subgenre of the Gothic called the “ecoGothic.” Literary scholars have described this as a “more ecologically aware Gothic,” attuned to the spaces of “dark nature” and the roles which human fear and ambivalence play in shaping responses to the agency of the natural world. Hilary’s current creative work engages with sentient landscapes and plays with the idea that dwelling in  a sentient world also entails hauntings.
At present she is conducting SSHRC-funded ethnographic research at several animal sanctuaries located in southern Arizona near the US-Mexico border; co-editing a book on Sustainability and the Sacred; and is exploring/theorizing the role of terror and fear toward the natural world in relation to compassion and creation care.


100 St. George Street Toronto ON