John Soluri's personal statement-Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research - Carnegie Mellon University

photoJohn Soluri


I study things like bananas and sheep. Why on earth would anyone study such seemingly mundane topics? Because I am interested in conceptualizing history as if non-human organisms and biophysical processes mattered. Too often, historical analysis is constrained by a "social relations determinism" that privileges economics and politics over ecology and material culture. My research revolves around understanding the production and consumption of biocommodities - market goods that are derived from plants and animals. These processes take place in what I call "working environments" - spaces where people do work but also where "nature" does work - dynamically and often unpredictably shaping political, economic, and social institutions. At the same time, environmentalists often operate in "crisis mode" and fail to consider how understanding the history of not only human societies but ecosystems can help us to make decisions in a world filled with uncertainties, partial truths, and highly unequal distribution of power and resources.