(Archived) ENGL 706: Expertise & Engagement in the Pluriverse (Fall 2019)


The course builds from readings in rhetoric of science, feminist science and technology studies (STS), settler colonial critique, posthumanisms, and action research to engage with watery science and management and collective worlding. Extending from Dr. Druschke’s work on the collaborative Mississippi: An Anthropocene River project, and with the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and the Driftless Writing Center’s “Stories from the Flood” project, course members can expect to question monolithic versions of western Science that reify a human/nature divide, explore indigenous and feminist perspectives on formal and informal sciences, question wider notions of expertise inside the university and out, and consider whether or not it might be possible to use feminist, decolonial, ecological, and trophic STS approaches to do better in the world(s). This course will work to stitch together ideas about neoliberalism, expertise, ontology, science, democracy, settler colonialism, environmental management, and ethical engagement, and invite students to take some of these seemingly disparate areas of inquiry and mobilize them for their own disciplinary interests, while articulating how they might engage the world around them in ethical ways.

Download full syllabus here.


  • What is the role of expertise in the (de-)legitimizing of knowledge claims, scientific and otherwise?
  • How and when can or should academics engage with non-academic communities without doing harm?
  • How can indigenous and non-indigenous scholars support decolonial approaches in ways that don’t deny their absolute emphasis on sovereignty and land repatriation?
  • How can emerging understandings of entanglement and ontology inform rhetorical studies and other disciplines in the humanities and biophysical sciences?
  • What role(s) does language play in co-making worlds?
  • Where does democracy go wrong? What—if any—are its possibilities?
  • How can we mobilize connections from the course to dismantle and rebuild the unjust structures of the university, from its location on stolen Ho-Chunk land to its mission to extend the expertise of the university to problems throughout the state?
  • How might we thoughtfully and responsibly move forward together?


At the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate fluency with a variety of academic texts related to multispecies approaches, the pluriverse, neoliberalism, democratic theory, and decoloniality
  • Draw connections across humanistic approaches, connecting course readings across science and technologies studies, political theory, rhetorical studies, decolonial theory, and more, with students’ own disciplinary perspectives
  • Produce a variety of common post-graduate, academic genres, including conference proposals, personal statements, and journal articles
  • Participate in academic discussions by engaging with academic texts and colleagues’ ideas and leading colleagues in engaging, productive discussion
  • Identify the ways in which the material and discursive efforts of the university perpetuate certain forms of injustice
  • Engage with out-of-class and even off-campus discussions, drawing connections between course readings and public discourses
  • Provide and receive rich and productive feedback related to their writing and revise written text based on those interactions



Actively participate in all course meetings. This semester, we’ll be adapting Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing’s approach to class discussion from their shared “Ecological Discourses” seminar at UC Santa Cruz. Students are expected to carefully read and annotate all assigned readings and bring digital or physical copies of those readings to class each week, along with three physical copies of a discussion question focused on our readings for that class period. Class meetings will begin with an overview of themes and potential questions by CGD. Students will submit copies of their question to CGD, and then trade a copy with another student. We’ll devote some time to thinking-writing as seminar members attend to reading, addressing, and enlarging on another student’s question quietly. CGD will then ask several seminar members to share their expanded questions with the class, leading us in discussion. As Tsing and Haraway described for their course, “The goal is to think on one’s feet in such a way to make another person’s question clear, interesting, and full of attachment sites for everybody in terms of the week’s readings and the seminar’s themes and questions. Address the other person’s question, interpret it, enlarge on it, discuss it in a way you’d like your questions discussed. This is a fundamental seminar skill and also teaching skill.” From there, we’ll work into larger group discussion. During each class period, two students will serve as scribes. As Haraway and Tsing described, “The scribes should intervene to redirect discussion if themes get lost or no one addresses something the scribe thinks should get some air time.” Scribes will post their discussion summaries to Canvas at the conclusion of class. Each class period will close with CGD forecasting connections to the next week’s readings and activities. This is an interdisciplinary group of students, and each student should feel encouraged to both understand the course texts on the authors’ terms AND connect course readings to students’ own disciplinary perspectives and interests.

CLASS-RELATED EVENT | ongoing, by Nov. 18 (do it early!) | 20%

Attend a class-related event and write a description of the event, followed by a critique of how the event complicated or illuminated or could have benefited from perspectives from our course readings and what directions that inquiry might go in into the future. (This is a 4-5 pg., double spaced writing activity.) CGD has spent a lot of time considering how to connect our course content to a world of incredible, related events happening around Wisconsin this semester. Stitched throughout our weekly schedule below is a list of events that directly relate to course content and allow opportunities to hear some world class speakers talk about challenging and provoking content. Students are expected to choose at least one of these events to attend, and then write a summary and critique of the event to bring back to class the following week. We will take a look at those event listings on day one of class so that CGD can describe the larger context of how they fit in with course content and specific readings. CGD is committed to using her own research funding to support students in class to attend events outside of Madison. You have some amazing opportunities this year, and CGD wants you to be able to take advantage of them.

CHE GRAD CONFERENCE ABSTRACT | Workshop Nov. 11, Due Nov. 15 | 20%

Prepare and submit an abstract for the 2020 CHE Grad Conference. From March 6-8, 2020, University of Wisconsin-Madison will serve as home to an interdisciplinary graduate student conference hosted by the Center for Culture, History, and Environment, “Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds: Land, Water, Food.” This conference emerges from a multi-year conversation across departments at UW-Madison concerned with the meaning of social and environmental justice in what Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser have called a “world of many worlds.” Inspired by work on indigenous cosmopolitics, multispecies ethics, feminist and postcolonial studies, and racial capitalism, we seek to understand the following questions: How have histories of colonial and capitalist exploitation shaped contemporary configurations among humans and other beings? How do class, racial, ethnic, gender, and other politics shape multispecies encounters? How can recognizing multiple forms of life reframe techno-scientific management? What might constitute environmental justice in the pluriverse? How might attention to indigenous cosmologies and multispecies ethics redefine the politics and structures of environmental justice? Keynote speakers will include Marisol de la Cadena, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, all of whom we will be reading together this semester. CGD knows this conference will be more interesting to some students than others, but it’s an incredible chance to practice adapting your research interests towards particular research opportunities, and this conference is a chance for world-class thinkers to arrive at your doorsteps excited to engage with your ideas.

PERSONAL STATEMENT ON ENGAGEMENT | Workshop Dec. 2, Due Dec. 9 | 20%

Prepare a personal statement on research ethics and engagement. Students on the job market are frequently expected to prepare a statement on teaching, and increasingly a statement on administrative philosophy, but what about a statement outlining our perspectives on ethical research and engagement? CGD expects all students in class to prepare a 2 pg. single-spaced statement of research ethics and engagement (with a bibliography that informs your perspectives) that relies on class readings and content to offer a roadmap for how students approach engagement in their academic research, teaching, and leadership. CGD’s hope is that this statement will have some practical use for students and will continue to evolve beyond the life of this course. Writing a 2 pg. statement about ethical engagement is also great practice for writing your future teaching and administrative philosophies. We will workshop these statements together and then share them at our final course meeting, working to connect some of their themes into a collective document that sums up much of our work this semester and offers a vision for the shared future we are working to co-construct.

SHORT-FORM ACADEMIC ARTICLE | Workshop Dec. 9, Due Dec. 16 | 20%

Write a short-form academic article that uses a selection of course readings and themes to explore a case from your own disciplinary perspectives. The idea here is to take the content from the course and make it your own, considering how our semester discussions might shape your disciplinary perspective on an issue of interest. CGD’s expectation is that students work with her to develop an initial idea, work with her and fellow students to revise their work, and aim towards actual submission to an appropriate venue. CGD commits to working with students beyond the end of this semester to help students actually submit this piece next semester or beyond. Some possible venues might include: Edge Effects 1.5-2K words; enculturation= 6-8K words; Community Literacy Journal “Issue in Community Literacy” section = 8-12 pgs.; Reflections = 18-30 pgs. or 3-6 pgs.; Water Alternatives= 6-12K; Geoforum “Forum” section = 4K words. Article drafts should be written towards an identified venue.


Monday, September 9 | Getting to know us

Introductions to each other and the class, review syllabus, CGD introduces her fused research, shares materials for Stories from the Flood, Mississippi: Anthropocene River, and Over the Levee, Under the Plow

Monday, September 16 | Managing Nature Under Neoliberalism
  • Lave, R., Mirowski, P., & Randalls, S. (2010). Introduction: STS and neoliberal science. Social Studies of Science 40(5) 659–675.
  • Lave, R., Doyle, M., & Robertson, M. (2010). Privatizing stream restoration in the US. Social Studies of Science40(5), 677-703.
  • Druschke, C. G. (2013). Watershed as Common-place: Communicating for Conservation at the Watershed Scale. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture7(1), 80-96.
  • Druschke, C. G., & Rai, C. (2018). “Making Worlds with Cyborg Fish.” Included in Tracing Rhetoric and Material Life: Ecological Approaches, edited by B. McGreavy, G. McHendry, S. Senda-Cook, and J. Wells. Palgrave Macmillan’s Studies in Media and Environmental Communication Series.
Monday, September 23 | Managing Nature in the Pluriverse
  • Woelfle-Erskine, C., & Cole, J. (2015). Transfiguring the Anthropocene: Stochastic reimaginings of human-beaver worlds.Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2(2), 297-316.
  • Whyte, K. P. (2013). On the role of traditional ecological knowledge as a collaborative concept: a philosophical study. Ecological Processes2(1), 7.
  • Boswell, A. (2015). The sensible order of the eel. Settler Colonial Studies5(4), 363-374.
Monday, September 30 | Co-making Worlds
  • First half of de la Cadena, M. (2015). Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Duke University Press.
Monday, October 7 | Co-laboring to Make Worlds
  • Second half of de la Cadena, M. (2015). Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Duke University Press.
Monday, October 14 | A World of Many Worlds
  • de la Cadena, M., & Blaser, M. (Eds.). (2018). A World of Many Worlds. Duke University Press.
Monday, October 21 | Ontology, Colonialism, Whiteness, Property
  • Reardon, J., & TallBear, K. (2012). “Your DNA Is Our History” Genomics, Anthropology, and the Construction of Whiteness as Property. Current Anthropology53(S5), S233-S245.
  • Agrawal, A. (1995). Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge. Development and Change26(3), 413-439.
  • Todd, Z. (2016). An indigenous feminist’s take on the ontological turn: ‘Ontology’ is just another word for colonialism. Journal of historical sociology, 29(1), 4-22.
Monday, October 28 | Late Liberalism
  • Povinelli, E. A. (2016). Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Duke University Press.
  • Compose a 1 pg. single-spaced discussion paper in response to Geontologies
Monday, November 4 | The Fall of Democracy
  • Cintron, R. (2019). Democracy as Fetish. Penn State University Press.
Monday, November 11 | CHE Conference Workshop
  • Workshop CHE conference proposals
Monday, November 18 | Methodologies for acting otherwise
  • Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions. (part one).
 Monday, November 25 | Methodologies for acting otherwise (cont.)
  • Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions. (part two)
  • Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2014). R-words: Refusing research. In Paris, D., & Winn, M. T. (Eds.), Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Sage Publications. 223-248.
Monday, December 2 | Radical aspirations | Statement workshop
  • Collard, R. C., Dempsey, J., & Sundberg, J. (2015). A manifesto for abundant futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers105(2), 322-330.
  • Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books Ltd.
  • CLEAR Lab Book
  • Workshop engagement statements – bring three paper copies to class!
Monday, December 9 | Denouement | Manuscript workshop
  • Workshop maunscripts; share statements on research ethics and use to draft a group manifesto/lab book