Fall 2019 launch

The unfolding climate crisis poses a fundamental challenge to the humanities because of the questions it raises about human agency, power, and the relationship of humans to—and in—the world we inhabit. We are confronted by the paradox that while human activities have physical world-altering effects, the scale of these effects puts them beyond human control: although we ourselves have changed the planet in frightening ways, we find ourselves increasingly helpless in the face of those changes. This paradox—the fact that the “Anthropocene” names the age of maximum human influence and maximum human vulnerability—forces us to reconsider our fundamental assumptions about the historical trajectories our species has been pursuing, along with the concepts of agency, freedom, and responsibility that underlie them. It forces us to question and redraft the prevailing definition of “the human”—the foundational concept of the Humanities—and of the boundaries, inclusions, and exclusions through which that definition has been framed.

The Multi-Species H-Lab proposes to identify strategies and develop practices of reading, writing, living, self-care, earth-care, and community engagement that open up the focus, usually centered on the human, to understand life—including human life—as a plural and enmeshed phenomenon. The Lab is conceived as an experimentally oriented contribution to the rapidly emerging field of Environmental Humanities, with intellectual foundations drawn from such fields as animal studies, environmental philosophy, science studies, and ecocriticism. The Lab also recognizes the veritable explosion of artistic engagement whereby artists, art collectives, curators and other practitioners are addressing the social and emotional complexities of our physically changing world.

Lab Team

  • Yanoula Athanassakis
    Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Director of NYU’s Environmental Humanities Initiative, Departments of English and Environmental Studies, Arts and Science
  • Una Chaudhuri
    Dean for the Humanities; Professor, Departments of English and Environmental Studies, Arts and Science; Department of Drama, Tisch School of the Arts; Director, Center for Experimental Humanities
  • Grace Anne Marotta
    Graduate Student, Experimental Humanities
  • Nick Silcox
    Doctoral Candidate, Department of English, Arts and Science
  • Robert Slifkin
    Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, Arts and Science
  • Marina Zurkow
    Artist; Instructor, Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch


“The opportunity to teach alongside faculty from other departments was especially important to me. The contacts I made through [the H-Lab] class continue to resonate in my intellectual and professional life at NYU.”

Robert Slifkin, Multi-Species Lab