Edge Effects: 2015 In Review
Last January, Edge Effects had just completed its third month in publication: it was a robust fledgling, fully launched but quite youthful by any measure. As we sailed into 2015, the Editorial Board was eager to see how the magazine would fare in the new year, and I am happy to say that the last twelve months have highlighted the vitality, depth, and versatility of our growing community of contributors—from within CHE and beyond.
Over the roughly 90 posts published in 2015, Edge Effects has featured a wide range of topics, genres, and perspectives. We’ve published reviews of manifestos and microbes; photo exhibits from Wisconsin, New York, and São Paulo; interviews about place-based education with Michael Goodwin, trash with Josh Lepawsky, dance with Cassie Meador, and indigenous language with Robin Kimmerer; and checklists covering children’s books, baseball, and Star Wars. We’ve had a two-part series of graduate student “postcards from the field” (part 1 and part 2); a reflection on how we built Edge Effects by our first managing editor; and many substantial, thoughtful, provocative essays.
In what follows, our editors share their thoughts on some notable, and perhaps overlooked, posts from Edge Effects in 2015.
—Nathan Jandl, Managing Editor
As an editor for Edge Effects, I feel privileged to work with our authors as an idea for a post begins to take form, shifts, and changes through conversations and hard work, and finally emerges as a polished post. The editing process can be one of the most collaborative ways that we work with our colleagues in the environmental humanities, though much of this is invisible in the finished post. Silke Vetter-Shultheiss’s post on visualizing West German environmentalism is a great example of a piece that emerged out of a visiting scholar’s innovative dissertation research methods and took shape through conversations among graduate students in CHE and with Edge Effects editors. A BIG thank you, to all our authors and editors, for together creating this space of creative collaboration.
If you think that sporting events have only to do with human teams playing against each other, think again: Nature is a force to be reckoned with on the ball field. In this list of memorable baseball moments ranging from a midge swarm engulfing a Yankees pitcher in a playoff game to a fastball striking dead a swooping dove, Brian Hamilton narrates and his brother Dave Hamilton illustrates nine moments in which non-human nature has asserted itself and forever changed the course of baseball history. The vignettes are lively and the illustrations superb.
This year, anthropologist Dr. Sarah Besky’s essay on the politics of belonging in Darjeeling, India caught my attention for its shrewd insights and application of familiar CHE tools to a region unfamiliar to many of us. Eminently readable, the piece reveals how physical landscape is refracted in local language and economic relations built around the uphill-downhill features of the terraced location. Even more generatively, the essay asks readers to consider how the region’s colonial history has shaped contemporary debates over belonging: over who can lay claim to the space, over which practices legitimately demonstrate this belonging, and over what it means—to borrow Besky’s phrase—to struggle “as much with land as … for land.” We’ll look forward to welcoming Dr. Besky back to Madison this March for the upcoming CHE Graduate Student Symposium.
In the depths of last year’s winter, Sigrid Peterson shared her documentary photo essay-slash-short fiction piece, “Whatever. . . Never Mind, or Old Torvald Skaalen Died on Saturday.” Re-reading a series of photographs she took in late 2014 in the Wisconsin town of Stoughton—known for its Norwegian heritage—she crafts a story treating memory, identity, and place. The set-up is a married couple discussing the recent death of a sort-of community iconoclast (or, better yet, troll) who blasphemed the supposed virtues of Norwegian culture. Peterson deftly synchronizes text and photos to produce equal parts charm (“Elsa sipped her coffee—black and spelled with a “k,” which made it Norwegian coffee, of course.“) and pensiveness (“Good Norwegians know that the most famous and powerful trolls have multiple heads. . . 5, 10, 50! You and me? We have them, too. But poor Torvald had only one. . .the one for his pain.”) As we again hunker down for the cold ahead, it’s a piece worth revisiting.
If you’ve ever attended an academic conference and had that feeling of “Ah ha! I found my people!” it’s probably not just because of your colleagues’ papers and PowerPoint presentations. Conferences are some of the most common spaces for academic interpersonal interaction, and fostering positive interactions—those “ah ha!” feelings—takes work and awareness. In Improving the Conversational Geography of Environmental Conferences, Heather Rosenfeld offers an incredibly helpful list of suggestions for conference organizers and attendees. While some of her suggestions may seem like small steps—asking attendees to introduce themselves, for instance—they can go a long way toward making our intellectual communities, particularly those that historically have had little gender and racial diversity, more welcoming and engaging to a variety of participants.
Kaitlin Stack Whitney
One of my favorite pieces to shepherd along as an editor this year was Dr. Samantha Muka’s post on the history of beach building and maintenance in the US. Despite being someone who grew up near the shore, and apparently in the state with the longest known history of beach building, the story was a surprise. This delightful article revealed a history that is hidden in plain sight, as one of the intentions of beach building efforts is to appear effortless and natural. It’s working! Dr. Muka found some great pictures showing the process described, yet even with all the summer days I’ve spent on beaches, I’ve never witnessed beach building in action. It’s a great example of a post that entertains, educates, and invites us to new ask questions about the “natural” (built!) world around us. I look forward to sharing more stories like this with our readers in 2016.