Emily Jones is Associate Professor of German Studies and Environmental Humanities at Whitman College. There she has served as chair of the German Studies department since 2016 and as Director of the Environmental Humanities program since 2022 and led both programs through large-scale redesigns of their curricula. She has received awards in support of her scholarship from the DAAD and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society as well as institutional awards from the Soden Fund for Student-Faculty Research at Whitman College. She has received numerous institutional and national awards for teaching, including the Thomas D. Howells Award for Distinguished Teaching in Humanities and Arts and the Graves Award in the Humanities.
Her research engages with contemporary literature’s engagement with the environment. She studies the representation of material agencies beyond the human in literature and conducts interdisciplinary environmental humanities research on the co-constitution of the human and non-human worlds while challenging the fixedness of that boundary. She is interested in the intersections between literature, art, history, and the natural sciences, particularly in the way that these various modes of interacting with the world can work together toward a more ethical engagement with the other than human world in the era of the climate crisis.
Her research project at HIAS is an intervention in the burgeoning field of critical plant studies, and engages material ecocritical theory, botany, environmental planning and policy, and economics in order to explore the valorization and demonization of seeds and other plant matter in discourses of climate change, sustainability, and agriculture. She will explore the many varied, ingenious ways that plants find to propagate and the ways in which humans collect, catalog, and disseminate these packets of vegetal agency. She will ask in what ways we may look to vegetal agencies for both literal solutions to the crises occasioned by anthropogenic climate change, for example intensifying food insecurity, increasingly challenging agricultural conditions, food sovereignty and agricultural colonialism. In addition, she will explore the figurative models that plant propagation may offer for rethinking humans’ place in the environment. Using theoretical frames from material ecocriticism and the growing field of critical plant studies, as well as theories that are based on botanical thinking, she will examine literary and cultural products, but also the material culture and discourse of seed collections and plant-focused conservation, land restoration, and rewilding projects in North America and Europe.
Her tandem partner is Thea Lautenschläger, scientific manager of Universität Hamburg’s Botanical Garden.
Emily Jones’ HIAS Fellowship is provided by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the federal and state funds acquired by Universität Hamburg in the framework of its Excellence Strategy.