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The Shapiro Initiative on Environment and Society supports historically oriented research on the environment at the University of Chicago. Each year, SIES sponsors a distinguished visitor, a graduate workshop, and a fellowship scheme. Our aim is to bolster Chicago's reputation as a world leading center for environmental history in all its forms.

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. 

The first annual lecture, "The Administration of Land, Water, and Atmosphere in the Longue Duree -- and How to Study it," will be delivered by Jo Guldi on Thursday, May 2nd at 5pm in the John Hope Franklin Room. 

She will also 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.

Shapiro Visiting Academics

Jo Guldi is Professor of Quantitative Methods at Emory University and a historian of capitalism. Her books include The Dangerous Art of Text Mining: A Methodology for Digital History, The Long Land war: The Global Struggle for Occupancy Rights, The History Manifesto, and The Road to Power. She completed her PhD in History at the University of California, Berkeley and later held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Chicago and the Harvard Society of Fellows. Prof. Guldi was also previously Hans Rothfels Assistant Professor of History at Brown, and Full Professor of History at Southern Methodist University.

Poster for Jo Guldi's Lecture
Graduate Student Research Awards

Annually, the initiative sponsors 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 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, is hosting a conference featuring panels of junior scholars, graduate students, and PhD candidates. The event is held in the Swift Hall Commons.

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 (

Program for the SIES Graduate Symposium