2018: Toxic Tales, Body Burdens and Climatic Conundrums

Toxic Tales Symposium

With debates about how or whether climate change is “pure myth” in an age of alt-facts, this symposium brings together scholars who think broadly and deeply about various forms of “toxicity” – social, sexual, economic, political, historically-situated, medical, as well as environmental – and the tales told about who and what is “toxic”, abnormal, diseased or harmful. Who represents “the folk” in Americana lore and in global narratives about progress? Where is the line between “traditionality” and “modernity,” who draws it, and what are its implications? How does “folk science” contribute to the making of current medical and agricultural innovations on a quickly heating planet? Drawing from Critical Race, Muslim, Indigenous, Queer and Environmental studies, this symposium’s storytellers will present on myriad “toxic tales” that span the intersections of folkloristics, queer theory, environmental and social justice, settler colonialism and structural racism in the United States and around the world.  (Photo credit above: Teresa Montoya; teresamontoya.squarespace.com.)

(While this schedule is set, some details may still be subject to change, including participants' attendance and talk titles. Please check back for updates closer to the event! - Last updated March 22, 2018.)

(Free and open to the public.)


Friday, March 30th, 2018

Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street


8:30 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 9:15 Opening Remarks (Ruth Goldstein)

9:15 – 10:45 Panel I: Climatic Conundrums

George Clarke “Readers Getting Help in an Age of Climatic Uncertainty”

Evan Hepler-Smith “Chemistries of Regret”

Olutoyin Demuren Historical Visions of Nature and Culture in Dominica’s Ecotourism

Devi Lockwood Solastalgia


10:45 – 11:00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:30 Panel II: Toxic Conditions of Climate, Confinement, and Surveillance

Kaya Williams “Conditions of Confinement"

Ashwak Hauter Fag’a (Fright) and Khawf (Fear): Spatial and Spiritual Borders”

Anwar Omeish “Ecologies of Surveillance in the National Security State: An Autoethnography

                                  of Double Consciousness"

Nazish Riaz “War and its Connection to Climate Change”


12:30 – 1:30 Lunch provided (Slideshow from Teresa Montoya)


1:30 – 2:30 Panel III: Honoring Maria Tatar

Introduction: Stephen Mitchell

Katie Kohn

Lindsey Aakre

Christina Phillips Mattson

Moira Weigel


2:30 – 2:45 Coffee Break


2:45 – 4:15 Panel IV: Toxic Tales, Sexual, and Embodied Ecologies

Ruth Goldstein Mother of God, Child of Jupiter: Mercury’s Kinship Relations and Care

                                   in Amazonian Gold Mines

Shakthi Nataraj “One plus one is three: The Tamil tirunankai as the future of sex”

Kristen Simmons “Atmospheres of White Supremacy”


4:15 – 4:30 Coffee break


4:30 – 6:00 Keynote Speaker: Tiffany Lethabo King
                              “At the Pores of the Plantation: Tales of Toxicity, Tales of Black Life”

6:00 – 6:30 Wind-Down


kristen simmons(Photo credit: Kristen Simmons)