Critical World Ecologies

Present discussions about the catastrophic and rapid changes now underway in the earth system—transformations that include the mass extinction of species, the inundation of cities, and the collapse of entire ecosystems—focus largely upon concepts like sustainability, mitigation, and resilience. After all, the continued existence of human life on earth may, in fact, depend upon efforts to geoengineer the atmosphere or the reefs, and it is understandable that we wish to protect the remaining members of beloved nonhuman species.

In recent years, “the Anthropocene” has emerged as a framework for integrating scholarship across the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences in a conversation about our unequally shared ecological predicament. While the Anthropocene usefully focuses our attention on the long history of humans shaping and being shaped by nature, it also erases the operations of capitalism and racism in the making of the contemporary world and obscures the myriad ways in which climate change is differentially produced and experienced by differently situated people around the globe.

The Global Studies Center’s “Critical World Ecologies” initiative assembles an interdisciplinary group of scholars, activists, artists, curators, policy-makers, and writers from on and beyond our campus to explore the broad transnational and world-historical processes that condition how humans think about and exploit nature as well as the contemporary social, cultural, economic, and political relations through which environments are continually reproduced. We want to explore the ethical, epistemological, and artistic challenges of doing theory and history in times of profound global climatic upheaval and transformation and consider how to balance the urgency of our predicament with the need for critical reflection. We are interested in topics such as:

  • unrestricted capitalism, plantation economies, decolonization, and white supremacy;
  • historical and contemporary relations of colonialism and imperialism and their ecological impacts;
  • post-communist environmental reckonings;
  • slow violence and environmental injustice;
  • adaptation strategies such as degrowth, reparation, restitution, and human rights;
  • ecological impacts of modern slavery, trafficking, and labor exploitation;
  • the normative, political, and psychological significance of loss;
  • ecological sovereignty and democracy;
  • the fragility of existing social, political, and economic arrangements.

In the spring of 2022, the Center launched the Global Sustainability Series: Interdisciplinary Workshops & Discussions to highlight sustainability issues that frames art, business, humanities, politics, and technology in the context of the global issues we all face due to climate change. 

Nancy Condee


Professor Condee is a scholar of contemporary Russian culture, cinema, and cultural politics.  She is a member of the Film Studies Program and Director of the Center for Russian, and East European Studies, and Eurasian Studies (REEES).

Michael Goodhart

Michael Goodhart is Professor of Political Science, and he holds secondary appointments in Philosophy and in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. His current research focuses on questions to do with global injustice and responsibility for injustice.  He is also interested in thinking about new modes of political theorizing for the Anthropocene. His core intellectual interests are in the theory and practice of democracy and human rights in the context of globalization and in related questions concerning global justice, democratic governance, and political responsibility at the transnational level.
Dr. Goodhart is co-president of the Association for Political Theory; he is an affiliate of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut, a member of the Center for Ethics and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and sits on several editorial boards. In 2008-2009 he was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research fellow and Guest Professor in the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin. 


Mark Abbott


Dr. Abbott received his PhD in 1997 under the direction of Kerry Kelts at the University of Minnesota’s department of Geology and Geophysics and Limnological Research Center.  He did a postdoc at the University of Massachusetts with Raymond Bradley at the Climate System Research Center and came to the University of Pittsburgh in 2001 as an assistant professor.

Michaël Aklin

Michaël Aklin is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, which he joined in 2015. His research focuses on international and comparative political economy with applications to environmental issues and financial crises. The author of two books (MIT Press), his work has been published in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Energy Economics, Nature Energy, and PNAS. He completed his PhD at New York University and spent time at the University of Pennsylvania, Sciences Po, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He is also a Fellow at Johns Hopkins' Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy.

Barbara McCloskey

Barbara McCloskey has published widely on the relationship between art and politics in 20th century German art, the visual culture of World War II, and artistic mediations of the experience of exile in the modern and contemporary eras.  Her most recent book, The Exile of George Grosz: Modernism, America, and the One World Order, was published by University of California Press in January 2015.  Her lecture courses and seminars cover the history of art in 20th century Germany, international Dada and Surrealism, critical theory, and art historical methodology.  Graduate students working under her supervision have developed MA and PhD theses on topics ranging from art and photography in Weimar and the Third Reich to studies of 1930s American muralism and leftist art history, East German art and design, Czech surrealism, and issues of nationalism and populism in Russian fin-de-siéclè and early 20th century Croatian art.  Many of her students have competed successfully for prestigious national and international awards including DAAD, Wolfsonian, Fulbright, Berlin Prize, and Fulbright-Hayes fellowships.