Making Green Worlds contributes to current debates about climate change that are at the forefront of public and academic discourse by re-assessing the intersection of global mobility, environmental change, and artistic invention before the advent of the modern era. Historical narratives of early globalization (c. 1492-1700) and its impact on artistic production need revision to consider the complex and multi-faceted effects of colonial violence and environmental degradation. Making Green Worlds takes up this challenge by addressing urgent questions raised by ecocritical studies, decolonial approaches, and growing interest in “green worlds,” a concept expanded from literary studies. Green worlds are fabricated by artists, poets, and playwrights who created illusory visions of the natural world; they are also shaped by practices like garden design, agriculture, town planning, and land reclamation. These human-made environments are conceived as second worlds, controlled spaces that vie with nature itself in fashioning an artfully designed setting. Such spaces advance new understandings of the world as human-made. Creative processes of engagement with the earth foreground the critical, technological, and imaginative elements of world-making processes. A central question is how the making of green worlds operated in tandem with a significant escalation in environmental devastation unleashed by global mobility and the brutal exploitation of people and natural resources worldwide. This dynamic tension between the creation and destruction of green worlds is at the core of the research agenda.
Making Green Worlds is a multi-year project based at McGill University and is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It develops out of Making Worlds: Art, Materiality, and early modern Globalization (2015-2021) whose research outcomes show how global traffic and transcultural creativity fostered new ways of knowing and shaping the world.
Making Green Worlds is necessarily a collaborative research initiative; it fosters relationships with institutions in Canada, the USA, and Europe in order to generate interdisciplinary conversations with researchers and activists across and beyond the university. Developing a collaborative model of graduate and faculty research in the humanities is central to our approach. Our membership includes professors, postdocs, and students from the University of California at Los Angeles and McGill University. Together, we will test and explore historical case studies and methodological propositions in a series of research events and publications.
In 2022, Making Green Worlds was the theme of a week-long international meeting of the Ecole de Printemps organized by the Réseau International pour la Formation à la Recherche en Histoire de l'Art, an international consortium that fosters collaboration across dynamic research institutions, grandes écoles, and art history research centres in Europe, Canada, the USA, and Japan: https://www.proartibus.org/ecoles-de-printemps