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Cate Sandilands

Professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Culture

Cate Sandilands is a Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, where she teaches at the intersections of environmental humanities, sexuality studies, and social and political theory. Her current research focuses on people’s “overlooked” relationships with plants in Toronto in the midst of our enmeshment in botanical worlds.

Since my appointment to the Faculty 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.

Areas of Academic Interest

  • Environmental cultural studies
  • Environmental/ecological literary criticism, environmental writing
  • Sexuality, gender and environments: queer ecologies, ecological feminisms
  • Nature and environment in social and political thought
  • Everyday human/plant relations, vegetality, and botanical biopolitics