May 19, 2020
This semester, Environmental Humanities Postdoc Tomo Sugimoto taught an undergraduate course in Anthropology and East Asian Studies titled “Nature and Culture in and of East Asia.” In this course, students examined how nature shapes and is shaped by forces such as militarism, modernism, and industrial development in China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and beyond. In addition, the course questioned how groups — urban populations, poor peasants, indigenous communities — are disparately affected by environmental issues. Sugimoto assigned a highly interdisciplinary syllabus, including readings from anthropology, literary studies, and history, to provide students with diverse perspectives on the Nature/Culture question.
One student took this interdisciplinary approach to heart as she completed her final project. Kitty Kan created a digital Chinese scroll painting to explore shifting relationships with nature in the Chinese context. The scroll evokes the work of contemporary Chinese artists and the environmental concerns that they address. “Art has always provided people with the power of expression and, in this way, has come to reflect various aspects of the societies from which they are produced,” Kan writes about the scroll. By taking art seriously as a mode of communication, Kan beautifully adds to a longstanding cultural tradition. The scroll project is available online and accessible to the public.
Kitty is a rising senior studying art and environmental studies. As a double major, she is interested in combining her passion for both fields, especially with regard to science communication. On campus, she has created numerous artworks, including stickers and comics, promoting sustainability on campus for the Office of Sustainability, and is also in the process of designing interpretive signs for trees at the Marsh Botanical Garden. She hopes to raise environmental awareness through art by sharing information in a fun and engaging way.