Talk given to Inter-college faculty Seminar in Humanities and Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Boston and New England American Studies Association in Lowell, MA, October 2009.
Introduction 1. Writings of Raymond Williams
—- (1983). The Year 2000. New York, Pantheon.
“…crises… are simply exposures of existing real relations, as distinct from the presumed and limited relations within which most political programmes are formulated.”
—- (1973). The country and the city. New York, Oxford University Press.
“The country and the city are changing historical realities…
Moreover… they represent only two kinds of settlement…
Yet the ideas and the images of country and city retain great force. This persistence has a significance matched only by the fact of the great actual variation, social and historical, of the ideas themselves.”
—- (1976, rev. 1983). Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. New York, Oxford University Press.
“The city as a really distinctive order of settlement, implying a whole different way of life, is not fully established, with its modern implications, until early 19th century, though the idea has a very long history…”
“…The widespread specialized use of country as opposed to city began in late 16th century with increasing urbanization and especially the growth of the capital, London. It was then that country people and the country house were distinguished….”
—- (1985). Loyalties. London, Chatto & Windus.
“…’As I said at the beginning,’ [he] shouted, ‘you’ll cut and run.’ Jon stood holding the door. The edge of the wood was between his fingers. ‘I told you. I have these questions to ask. Open questions.'”
(Other novels on related themes: 1960, 1964, 1979)
Introduction 2. Qs re: Boundaries of cities, work, and lives
What are the boundaries of the
we live and work in?
What are the boundaries of the
lives and work
we carry out in cities?
Introduction 3. Personal history of socio-environmental engagements
My environmental activism in Australia during the early 1970s led me to study ecological science. I had a mathematical disposition, so I chose to focus less on field studies and more on quantitative analysis and modeling, with a view to planning to prevent problems from emerging. I soon developed an interest, which continues to this day, in ecological complexity as a challenge to conventional scientific ways of knowing. As I explored this challenge, my work in ecology and socio-environmental studies opened out to interpretive studies of science and then to facilitation of critical, reflective practice. The common thread has been to problematize boundaries used by researchers to partition of complex situations into well-bounded systems and backgrounded or hidden processes. The integration of these three levels or angles is evident in my 2005 book, Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement. [Shameless plug]
Of course, problematizing boundaries would not be necessary unless it were not also the case that ecologists and environmental scientists can readily adopt explicit or implicit boundaries and study what is inside. The challenge then is to develop a frame that acknowledges people’s efforts to make boundaries work for them as well as the ever-present potential for their accounts to be confounded by what is left outside. In this talk I present a few vignettes or snapshots that speak to this challenge. These vignettes are chosen to highlight the tension between the local and the translocal, in particular, to take seriously the participation of diverse people whose livelihood is directly dependent on the ecosystem or city, and, at the same time, acknowledge researchers’ professional identities and abilities as people who can contribute analyses of changes that arise beyond the local region or at a larger scale than the local.
(to be continued)