I am a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Colin Coates, on a collaborative research project, Trading Consequences, which has funding from a Digging into Data grant. In July 2013, I will join the History Department at the University of Saskatchewan as an assistant professor.
Since my appointment to York University in 1994, I have considered my primary task as a teacher, writer and researcher to be the cultivation of the “plurality” of which Arendt writes so eloquently. We build and perceive a common world only insofar as we are articulate and passionate speakers of our own, unique relationships to it. This necessary connection of worldliness and plurality strikes me (even if it might not have Arendt) as especially true for our relationships to natural environments: only by developing a deeply particular understanding of the natural communities of which we are a part can we appear to one another in common to discuss them, and only by holding our perceptions up to the scrutiny of others can we understand our own individuality.
Reading and writing environmental literature is thus, in its exceptional focus on the tending of this relationship of plurality, a vital part of the development of an environmental public sphere. I understand my writing about Jane Rule and Derek Jarman, alongside yet quite different from my teaching of Henry David Thoreau and Catharine Parr Traill, as related acts to encourage understanding through specificity.
Jessica Van Horssen
Dr van Horssen received her PhD from the University of Western Ontario in 2010. She has held a post-doctoral fellowship at McGill/ Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières from 2010 to 2012, and is also a visiting fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München. Her monograph, to be published in 2013 by the University of British Columbia Press, is a groundbreaking historical study of Asbestos, Quebec. She has taught a range of courses at the undergraduate level at both McGill and Bishop’s University, including environmental history, modern Canada, indigenous studies and public history.