UCC Eco-Humanities Research Group invites you to a series of three online Summer Seminars

About this event

In this series we will hear from:

  1. Dr Alexander Hampton, University of Toronto, Realist Ontology and the Aesthetics of Nature: Methexis, Mimēsis and Poiēsis as a Return to Nature, Thursday 5th May, 17.00-18.15
  2. Prof Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo, Homogenising effects of globalisation on biological and cultural diversity, Thursday 19th May, 17.00-18:30
  3. Prof Freya Matthews, LaTrobe University, To decolonize nature we need ‘a story about feeling ’, Thursday 2nd June, 17.00-18:15 (pre-recorded)

Please note that all times are Irish Time

These sessions will all take place via Zoom and registration is required in order to receive Zoom link.

Registration Link: 


Full abstracts and bios for each speaker are provided below:

1. Realist Ontology and the Aesthetics of Nature: Methexis, Mimēsis and Poiēsis as a Return to Nature, Alexander J.B. Hampton, University of Toronto.

  • Abstract: The anthropocentric, disenchanted, commodified and instrumentalised view of nature, responsible for the anthropogenic destruction that characterises the environmental crisis, has deep roots in the Western intellectual tradition. However, equally a part of the Western tradition, though often-marginalised, is the philosophical tradition of ontological realism. This is the metaphysical position that ideals are real, transcendent realities that originate from a source that is beyond material and human reality, yet act as the ground for both. This consideration examines the resilient capacity of the realist tradition, most powerfully expressed through aesthetics, to disrupt and critique anthropocentrism, through three central, recurrent and evolving concepts: methexis (participation), mimēsis (imitation) and poiēsis (making). Taken together, these articulate and enact a relationship between humans and nature that recognises nature’s own inherent meaning and value apart from those imposed upon it by human minds. These dimensions of aesthetic realism are explored through examples from poetry, painting, music and architecture, taken from antiquity to modernity, each in its own way challenging anthropocentrism. In doing so, realist aesthetics presents itself as a creative resource for rethinking the human-nature relationship.
  • Bio: Alexander J. B. Hampton is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Toronto, specialising in metaphysics, poetics and nature. He is the author of Romanticism and the Re-Invention of Modern Religion (Cambridge, 2019), and editor of Pandemic, Ecology and Theology: Perspectives on COVID-19 (Routledge, 2020), Christian Platonism: A History (Cambridge, 2021), and the Cambridge Companion to Christianity and the Environment (Cambridge, 2022). He is currently writing a study of nature and the metaphysics of participation. He holds degrees from Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford and Toronto. Further Information: www.ajbhampton.com


2. Homogenising effects of globalisation on biological and cultural diversity, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo.

  • Abstract: State power and nation-building produce cultural similarity and comparability. The modern state aims to make populations legible through population statistics and manageable through a variety of official institutions, media, standardised education and labour markets. Economic globalisation, similarly, aims to make everything comparable with everything else, translating and reducing nature into resources (or ‘ecosystem services’) and people into producers and consumers. The common denominator is profitability, and economies of scale ensure accelerated standardisation. The current decade is that of the mega-mine, the smartphone and the shipping container. The benefits of global modernity are many, but contemporary overheated globalisation has severe unintended side-effects. Standardisation entails a loss of flexibility, defined as uncommitted potential for change. In order to understand this process, it is necessary to view ecology and culture through a common lens. Although evolution has led to increased semiotic complexity until the present age in both domains, the process is now being reversed owing to Anthropocene effects.
  • Bio: Thomas Hylland Eriksen is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and has written extensively about such themes as identity, ethnicity, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, globalisation, climate change, migration and human rights. Among his many books are Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change (2016), Boomtown: Runaway Globalisation on the Queensland Coast (2018) and Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology. Further information: https://www.hyllanderiksen.net/about

3. To decolonize nature we need ‘a story about feeling.’ Freya Matthews, LaTrobe University (Note that this is a pre-recorded lecture with live Q&A/discussion led by Dr Crystal Addey)


  • Abstract: It is often argued that the project of European colonialism rested on, and was legitimated by, an ideology of reason, of which the science that emerged in 17-18th century was the apotheosis. The epistemology of science enacted a subject-object dualism that was reiterated in a system of binaries that set abstract thought above feeling, the civilized above the primitive and the human above nature. It was this system of hierarchies that was historically seen by the colonisers as legitimating their domination of other peoples and the whole of nature. The legacy of this dualism lingers today in the attitude of Western civilization to the natural world, particularly via its framing of nature conservation in scientific terms. I argue that the goals of the conservation project would be better served if its epistemology were expanded to include very different ways of knowing based on feeling and hence on caring. Instances of such alternative epistemologies may be found in certain pre-agrarian societies that rely for their livelihood on the ecological integrity of their environment. Practitioners in such societies often develop ways of knowing attuned to subtle cues regarding the flourishing or otherwise of their ecological communities together with a sensitivity to the needs and attitudes of local beings. Such ways of knowing depend on the cultivation of ‘feeling’ via attentive and affective relationships with place and with those who hold, and pass on, the knowledge of place. I consider whether the teaching of such alternative ways of knowing might be integrated into mainstream conservation and environmental education in Australia, and if so, whether such new arrangements might have ripple effects into education and cultural epistemology generally, helping to ‘Indigenize’ social thinking.
  • Bio: Freya Mathews is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Philosophy at Latrobe University. Her books include The Ecological Self (1991), Ecology and Democracy (editor) (1996), For Love of Matter: a Contemporary Panpsychism (2003), Journey to the Source of the Merri (2003), Reinhabiting Reality: towards a Recovery of Culture (2005), Ardea: a philosophical novella (2015) and Without Animals Life is not Worth Living (2015). She is the author of over seventy articles in the area of ecological philosophy. Her current special interests are in ecological civilization; indigenous (Australian and Chinese) perspectives on “sustainability” and how these perspectives may be adapted to the context of contemporary global society; panpsychism and the critique of the metaphysics of modernity; and wildlife ethics in the context of the Anthropocene. In addition to her research activities she manages a private biodiversity reserve in northern Victoria. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.