CHE—the Center for Culture, History, and Environment—has many goals.
Undoubtedly the most important is to provide an intellectual home at UW-Madison for scholars and scientists from across campus—faculty members, grad students, and many others—who share an interest in past environmental change as it relates to human actions, ideas, and values over time.
Folks associated with CHE come from many intellectual backgrounds: history and botany, landscape architecture and English literature, geography and science studies, anthropology and limnology, and many other fields besides. Without CHE, many of us would never even find each other on this vast campus, let alone meet, learn from each other, and become friends and colleagues.
Although most of us are firmly grounded in one or more disciplinary traditions, we are all persuaded that no one discipline by itself can hope to solve the myriad puzzles of how and why people relate to, use, change, and value the world around them as they do. We all share an interest in the environmental past, and in that sense we all practice history even though most of us are not formally trained in the academic discipline of history. Interdisciplinary inquiry and conversation are thus central to what we sometimes half jokingly refer to as “CHE-space”: a shared intellectual context in which conversations across disciplinary boundaries are eagerly sought and shared.
CHE serves as the main home at UW-Madison for the “environmental humanities”—fields that concern themselves not just with the mechanisms of environmental change, but with its human meanings. But the humanities have no monopoly on the humanistic belief that one cannot hope to understand anthropogenic environmental change without exploring its cultural contexts and exploring human ideas, perceptions, and values. That is why CHE welcomes natural and social scientists as eagerly as it does humanities scholars: we all need each other to do this complicated and fascinating work.
Most of all, though, CHE is a bunch of people who share intellectual passions and enjoy each other’s companies. If it sounds like the kind of community you’re seeking, please come check it out!
We host a biweekly gathering—the CHE Environmental History Colloquium—where we share and talk about each other’s work and discuss issues of common interest, all broadly connected to past environmental change in its human cultural contexts.
We sponsor lectures, seminars, and other events on campus exploring humanistic perspectives on environmental change.
We offer the CHE Graduate Certificate, which grad students can use to meet their minor requirements and attach to any master’s or doctoral program on campus to train themselves in interdisciplinary approaches to understanding past environmental change.
To support the Certificate, we offer an CHE Methods Seminar each spring.
Each May, we hold a “Place-Based Workshop”—usually a bus trip of several days—in which a group of us goes to a location away from Madison to explore environmental questions and issues relating to that place through the interdisciplinary perspectives that CHE seeks to bring together.
We have organized major environmental film festivals and have an abiding interest in environmental film and other media.
We get together for parties and picnics and potlucks to encourage genuine friendship and to enjoy each other’s company.
The stuff we do is limited only by our imaginations—and yours if you join us!
Bradley Memorial Hospital, circa 1930
UW Digital Collections
All other photos by William Cronon
CHE's home is in the Bradley Memorial Building, but CHE's associates and faculty come from all corners of the UW campus and community.
Visit our Getting Started with CHE page to learn more about how you can get involved.