Environmental Humanities

Environmental Humanities Research Group

The Environmental Humanities Research Group is made up of nine full-time academic staff and eleven doctoral students. Our research explores the relationships between human creativity, social realities, and the non-human world. We collaborate with academic and non-academic partners in Leeds and around the world in order to promote the lasting value of a culturally, historically, and theoretically informed perspective on the present era of worldwide ecological crisis.

The group’s research ranges across many areas of literary studies, with strengths in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature, modern and contemporary poetry, postcolonial literature, theatre studies, and more. We are also committed to cross-disciplinary research: group members’ work draws on environmental philosophy, animal studies, the social and natural sciences, and the visual arts. Five key themes provide the focus for much of our research:

  • disaster studies
  • environmental poetics
  • animal studies
  • climate change studies
  • (post)colonial ecocriticism.

Members of the group are engaged in a number of major projects that cross disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. We are the lead partner in Europe’s first doctoral training programme in the environmental humanities, a landmark €3m initiative by the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund. Through that project and others, our collaborators include the Bhopal Medical Appeal, the Deutsches Museum (Munich), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm), Leiden University, Nanzan University (Nagoya), the Rachel Carson Centre (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich), the Woodland Trust, the Wordsworth Trust, and Yorkshire Water.

The wide-ranging expertise of the group’s academic staff, and the resources and reputation of the wider School of English, make the group an excellent base for research students. Leeds provides a supportive and inspirational setting for doctoral study in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, and we warmly welcome inquiries from prospective PhDs.

Some Recent Publications

Anthony Carrigan, Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture, and Environment (Routledge, 2011).

Amy Cutler, ‘“A local habitation and a name”: Writing Britain’, Journal of Historical Geography, 39 (2013), 125-134.

David Fairer, ‘“Where Fuming Trees Refresh the Thirsty Air”: The World of Eco-Georgic’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 40 (2011), 201-218.

David Higgins, Romantic Englishness: Local, National, and Global Selves, 1780-1850 (Palgrave, 2014).

Graham Huggan, Nature’s Saviours: Celebrity Conservationists in the Television Age (Routledge/Earthscan, 2013).

Lourdes Orozco, Theatre and Animals (Palgrave, 2013).

Collaborative Projects

Arctic Encounters: Contemporary Travel Writing in the European High North (funded by HERA)

Hearts of Oak (funded by IGNITE)

Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe: Innovative Training Network (funded by the European Commission)

Representing Postcolonial Disaster (funded by the AHRC)

Wordsworth, Creativity, and Cumbrian Communities (Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the AHRC)

Events and Engagement

Members are involved in a range of events and engagement activities, including a regular reading group. Recent events held in Leeds include: a public discussion entitled ‘On Death and Dying: Human-Animal Encounters’, linked to the Untied Artists’ production For Their Own Good; a cross-University Environmental Humanities research salon; a workshop on the Cultural Politics of Catastrophe; and an international postgraduate conference on the Postcolonial Arctic.

Planned events in 2014-15 include a major public-facing conference, Reframing Disaster, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the South Asian tsunami, the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, and several site-specific forest research workshops building up to a conference on conflicting cultures of British woodland.

Research Group Members

Academic Staff: Fiona Becket, Anthony Carrigan, Amy Cutler, Jeremy Davies, David Fairer, David Higgins, Graham Huggan, Roger Norum, Lourdes Orozco.

Doctoral Students: Jessica Ballantine, Anna Fleming, Julia Kazanova, Carl McKeating, Kasia Mika, Sam Perks, Laura Pearson, James Robertson, Chaiyon Tongsukkaeng, Emma Trott, Mick Wood.


Dr David Higgins (d.higgins@leeds.ac.uk)