Nov 1 2019

“Can A River Be A Person?” Conference

Frontiers Workshop

November 1, 2019

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM


Stevenson Hall Lower Level


Chicago, IL 60612

“Can a River Be a Person? Indigenous Groups, Legal Theorists, and Marxists Confront Climate Change,” A Humanities Frontiers Workshop, organized by Political Ecologies Working Group

Register via the Institute for the Humanities website, under the tab "Can A River Be A Person?"

This workshop brings together scholars, lawyers, and activists to explore the concept of environmental rights. Western ontology enshrines a distinction between life (bios) and nonlife (geos), and between persons and property. In this system the earth is already dead. Putting legal scholars, indigenous lawyers, and native theorists in conversation with each other, participants will explore the possibilities of a future ontology. This exciting workshop will feature a plenary talk by Elizabeth Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University.

9 – 9:30 Breakfast

9:30-10 Welcome and introductions

10 – 12 Perspectives on the Environment
Moderator: Ralph Cintrón, English & Latin American and Latino Studies

  1. Bernard Perley, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    “Wolastok: Remembering the Maliseet River of Life”
  2. Michael Barsa, Pritzer School of Law, Northwestern University
    “Nature Isn’t One Thing:  Environmental Law, Standing Doctrine, and Ecosystem Rights”
  3. Gwendolyn Gordon, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
    “Three Theories of Environmental Personhood”
  4. Molly Doane, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago
    “Scalar Affects of the Anthropocene in Chicago Community Gardens”
  5. Hayley Negrin, History, University of Illinois at Chicago
    “From Landscapes to Riverscapes: Algonquian Power and Placemaking in Early Chesapeake Bay”

12 – 1 Lunch

1 – 2:30   Case Study: the Rights of Manoomin (Wild Rice)

Moderator: Casey Corcoran, English, University of Illinois at Chicago

  1. Richard Monette, Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    “Can a Person be a River? — how Turtle used Corn, Squash, and Beans to create Sovereignty”
  2. Frank Bibeau, Tribal Attorney
    “Rights of Manoomin (wild rice)”
  3. Mari Margil, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
    “Building a Global Movement for the Legal Rights of Nature”

2:30 -3     Break

3 – 5   Elizabeth Povinelli, Anthropology and Gender Studies, Columbia University
“Where is the River? Acts of Attention and the Extensions of Existence”

Introducer: Molly Doane, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago

5 -6 Reception

Conference organizers Ralph Cintrón, English & Latino and Latin American Studies and Molly Doane, Anthropology


Linda Vavra

Date posted

May 1, 2019

Date updated

Oct 18, 2019