Core Faculty


MICHAEL ALLENallen

Assistant Professor, Religious Studies

Michael S. Allen works on philosophy, religion, and the environment in South Asia. He is especially interested in Indian philosophy and its relevance to environmental thought, as well as in the religious dimensions of contemporary Indian environmentalism. He is a contributing researcher to UVa’s multi-disciplinary Yamuna River Project, which focuses on pollution of the Yamuna river in Delhi. He has taught courses on “Hinduism and Ecology” and “Sustainability and Asceticism.” He is currently working on a project examining the relationship between theory and practice in classical Indian philosophy, with an eye to applying the insights of Indian philosophers to contemporary environmental concerns: how does one bridge the gap between merely theoretical knowledge and a deeper, transformative knowledge?

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ENRICO CESARETTIIMG_3108

Associate Professor, Italian

Enrico Cesaretti’s current research is located at the juncture of Italian Studies and ecocriticism. With Serenella Iovino and Elena Past he co-edited Italy and the Environmental Humanities (2018). His book project Telling Matters: Narratives of Environmental Entanglements in Modern Italy sketches an alternative aesthetic and topographic map of this country by investigating together a number of imaginative landscapes and physical terrains where the places, the human bodies, and the substances that have marked Italy’s path towards modernity come to “meet” and interact. Mostly heeding an eco-materialist conceptual framework, he explores the narrative eloquence and agency of (some of) the organic and inorganic substances (i.e. sulfur, concrete, steel, asbestos, marble, petroleum) that, in their interaction with human beings’ own selves, corporality, agency and stories, have contributed to make (but, simultaneously, also “un-make”) the so-called Belpaese.

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CHRIS GRATIEN

Assistant Professor, History

Chris Gratien is currently working on a monograph provisionally titled The Mountains Are Ours: the environmental history of a late Ottoman frontier, which explores a century of ecological change in the Cilicia region of the Eastern Mediterranean between the 1850s and 1950s. His broader work examines issues in the social and environmental history of the modern Middle East. He is also producer and co-creator of Ottoman History Podcast, which since 2011 has published interviews with over 300 scholars and researchers about the history of the Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, and beyond.

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JAMES IGOEIgoe Picture

Professor, Anthropology

Professor Jim Igoe is a faculty member in the Anthropology Department. He is the author of two books: Conservation and Globalization (2004) and The Nature of Spectacle (2017), both of which draw from his work with communities in northern Tanzania and the western United States. The first engages ways in which Western ideals of pristine of wilderness have been imposed on landscapes and indigenous communities around the world, and the resulting displacements and ecological paradoxes. The second outlines ways in which the processes have become intertwined with a powerful vision of Nature in which economic growth and ecosystem health appear as mutually necessitating processes. Jim Igoe also appears in the film A Place without People (2009), a critical history of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. He is a co-convener of the UVA African Urbanism Humanities Lab and a faculty fellow of the UVA Mellon Indigenous Arts Program. His courses include Introduction to Anthropology, Imagining Africa, The Nature of Nature, History and Theory of Anthropology, and Indigenous Landscapes.

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WILLIS JENKINSJenkins bio pic

Professor, Religious Studies

Willis Jenkins is Professor of Religious Studies and faculty for the Global Sustainability major. He researches environmental ethics, focusing particularly on intersections of religion, nature, and culture. Current projects include research on religion and climate change, on religion and extinction, and on ethics in food relations. Jenkins is the author of two award-winning books, including The Future of Ethics, which won an American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence. With Matthew Burtner he co-directs the Coastal Futures Conservatory.

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MARY KUHNmarykuhn

Assistant Professor, English

Mary Kuhn is Assistant Professor of English with a joint appointment in the program in Environmental Thought and Practice. Broadly she works at the intersection of literature, science, and the environment, and she is currently completing a book entitled The Garden Politic: Global Plants and Nineteenth-Century American Literature. She teaches courses on topics such as Plants and Empire, American Environmental Fictions, Climate Fiction, and Literature and Science.

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DEBORAH LAWRENCEDeborah_Lawrence photo portrait

Professor of Environmental Sciences

Deborah Lawrence, a biogeochemist and Professor of Environmental Sciences, studies the effects of tropical deforestation on carbon and nutrient cycling and climate. She leads a research program on Food, Fuels and Forests, working with partners in environmental science and geography, ethics, psychology, and anthropology, engineering, economics and law to understand the drivers and consequences of land use change. She is trying to understand how forest cover affects climate locally, regionally and globally—focusing on both carbon emissions and changes to the exchange of water and energy. Recently, she spent a year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, conducting research on the human dimensions of climate mitigation, particularly how people perceive, think, and feel, and how that translates into caring, commitment and action. Prof. Lawrence believes we need to better understand people to successfully address climate change.

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