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The Shapiro Initiative on Environment and Society is supported by a generous gift from Brenda Shapiro that is intended to "encourage historians and social scientists across the disciplines interested in environmental, scientific, and global questions to rethink their enterprise, at the same time as seeking to generate new insights onto those questions themselves by doing so."
Shapiro Visiting Academics
Jo Guldi and the cover of her book, The Dangerous Art of Text Mining

Each year, a distinguished expert in a social-scientific research field related to climate and environment issues is invited to campus to give a public lecture and participate in other academic enterprises. 

This year, Jo Guildi, Professor of Quantitative Methods at Emory University, will visit campus in Spring quarter. She will host a masterclass based on her new book, The Dangerous Art of Text Mining, for graduate students on Tuesday, April 30th from 9-12 in the Tea Room and offer a lecture (title TBD) on Thursday, May 2nd at 5pm in the John Hope Franklin Room. 

Graduate Student Research Awards

Annually, the initiative will sponsor research awards for PhD students to engage in environmental or ecological work outside Chicago. The awards are intended primarily (but not exclusively) for second-year students. These research awards will fuel the next generation of social-science research engaged with issues of the environment and climate change.

Graduate Student Symposium on American Empire, Extraction, and Environment

On April 5, 2024, the Shapiro Initiative on Environment and Society (SIES), along with several partners, will host a conference featuring panels of junior scholars, graduate students, and PhD candidates. The event will be held in the Swift Hall Commons. A detailed program is coming soon. 

For decades, global consensus has been growing regarding the need for a transition toward fossil-fuel free energy production. The demands to halt new leases, pipelines, and drilling projects are clear, as are the demands by activists and impacted communities to redirect financing, prioritize the investment in clean renewables, and mitigate environmental impact.

What can be said of the consensus about the labor and land use which has formed the basis of global capitalist modernity? How might an energy transition challenge or entrench the histories of extraction and exploitation that has given rise to American empire? How do we imagine equitable and sustainable futures in the era of climate crisis? What forms of energy will humans consume and where will resources be developed? Where will agricultural products be grown and how will the non-human be treated? What forms of territorial governance will be just? And who will control the land and the labor which works it?

Organized by:

Leila K. Blackbird (
Nahomi Esquivel (
& Andrew Seber (

Logos for Sponsors: SIES, Department of History, EGU, KSC, Pozen Center, Divinity School