Skip to main content

Environment, Culture, and Society (Cluster)

The Environment, Culture, and Society Cluster provides an interdisciplinary home for graduate students across the university who study the intersection of culture and environmental change. The Cluster fosters interdisciplinary dialogue within the humanities and social sciences in order to: better understand and manage anthropogenic environmental changes; explore how culture and society shape our ideas about nature, the environment, and environmental problems; and offer fresh approaches to cultural expression, policy and activism.

Scholars, policy makers, and practitioners increasingly recognize that solving environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, air pollution, and water resource degradation require deeper engagement with and understanding of the social and human dimensions of environmental change. Addressing the planet’s most pressing environmental concerns is not only a matter of applying scientific and technological solutions; it is also a matter of understanding cultural, political, and historical context and the distinct relationships that different stakeholders have to the nonhuman world. Climate change for example, is a cultural and political issue as much as it is a scientific issue; and environmental policy must involve insights from the humanities and social sciences in order to address questions of democracy, equity, and justice.

The ECS graduate cluster brings together faculty and graduate students who share a deep investment in studying and addressing environmental issues, and builds a community of environmental humanists and social scientists at Northwestern. The ECS Cluster draws upon faculty in English, History, Screen Cultures, Media, Technology and Society, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Anthropology, Asian Languages and Cultures, Political Science, Art History, Journalism, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and the Comparative Literary Studies Program, among others. The Cluster serves as a platform for ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration, both within the humanities and the social sciences, and in partnership with the natural sciences, and so enhances Northwestern’s role in shaping the public debate on environmental issues.

See Environment, Culture, and Society Cluster Requirements for specific courses and procedures needed to complete this program.

How to Apply

Enrolled PhD and Master’s students in The Graduate School may pursue this cluster with the permission of their program.

Who to Contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program.

Jacob Smith

Phone: 847-491-5223

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

Students admitted through the cluster take three approved courses, chosen from among the list below, during their first two years of study. Students work with their departmental advisors and the ECS faculty to map out a plan of study that best suits their intellectual interests.

  • RTVF 584-0 Research Seminar: Media and the Environment
  • ART_HIST 460-0: Studies in 20th and 21st Century Art: Theories of Intention
  • RELIGION 462-0 Topics in American Religious History & Contemporary Practice: Climate Messaging Media Collaboratory
  • POLI_SCI 490-0 Special Topics in Political Science: Global Environmental Politics
  • ENGLISH 385-0: Topics in Combined Studies:  Natural Languages & Green Worlds
  • ANTHRO 382-0/ENVR POL 384: Political Ecology
  • ENGLISH 481-0: Studies in Lit Theory & Criticism: Racial Ecologies
  • COMP_LIT 486-0 Studies in Literature & the Disciplines/ ENGLISH 461-0 Studies in Contemporary Literature: Blue Humanities
  • ASIAN_LC 492-0 Topical Seminar in Asian Humanities/ COMP_LIT 413-0 Comparative Studies in Theme: Chinese and Other Animals: An Introduction to Animal Studies
  • ENGLISH 465-0: Studies in Colonial & Postcolonial Literature:  Ecology and Postcolonial Forms
  • ENGLISH 441-0: Studies in 18th Century Literature: Green Materialisms
  • MTS 525: Environment and Climate Issues in Media, Technology and Society

The following courses are offered for undergraduate credit and may not be counted toward the cluster requirements. However, students may still be interested in taking them:

  • HISTORY 376-0/ ENVR_POL 340-0 Global Environments and World History
  • POLI_SCI 349-0 International Environmental Politics
  • JOUR 417 Native American and Indigenous *
  • ART_HIST 368-0 Special Topics in Modern Art: Art and Nature in Early Modern Europe

 *may require enrollment permission from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

 In addition, students admitted to the cluster are expected to attend the ECS lectures and events.