Allison Carruth joins American studies, High Meadows Environmental Institute faculty

Wednesday, Jan 27, 2021
by Sarah Malone, Program in American Studies, and Morgan Kelly, High Meadows Environmental Institute

Allison Carruth, whose collaborative work bridges the arts, humanities and sciences, will join the Princeton faculty as a professor of American studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) in a new joint appointment that will expand interdisciplinary teaching and research in the environmental humanities.

“I’m honored to be joining the Princeton faculty with this appointment,” Carruth said. “The Program in American Studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute are vibrant and innovative interdisciplinary communities. I look forward to contributing to these communities, and working with colleagues, students and outside partners in making the arts and humanities central to environmental problem solving in the 21st century.”

Carruth comes to Princeton from UCLA, where she was a professor in the department of English and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Her research currently centers on science communication and environmental narrative; the role of artists and writers in American environmental movements; and evolving relationships in the United States between technology and ecology.

Carruth is teaching the spring 2021 graduate environmental studies course, “Climate Science and Digital Culture,” which focuses on challenges to communicating climate science in the context of digital media developments of the past two decades, with a focus on American journalism and social media cultures.

“Princeton is so fortunate to have Allison Carruth join us to develop a truly innovative and much-needed interdisciplinary bridge between the sciences and humanities,” said Program in American Studies Director Aisha Beliso-De Jesús, professor of American studies.

At Princeton, Carruth will launch an environmental media lab that will experiment in emerging and traditional media of storytelling, from speculative fiction and documentary to animation, interactive design and augmented realty. The lab also will provide audio and video production capacity, as well as teaching opportunities to the wider Program in American Studies community.

“Her digital storytelling lab — which is artistic, technological and scientific — will allow us to train students on new forms of artistic research and humanities-oriented technology, food studies techniques, and environmental analysis,” Beliso-De Jesús said. “We are truly lucky to have her.”

Carruth served as the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow in American Studies at Princeton in the fall 2019 semester. She taught the course “Creative Ecologies: American Environmental Narrative, Media and Art (1980-2020),” in which students explored how writers and artists, alongside scientists and activists, have shaped American environmental thought since the 1980s. One student team in the course created a podcast on local food systems and sustainability, for which they interviewed farmer Jon McConaughy of Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, New Jersey.

“I am absolutely delighted to have Allison Carruth join the faculty at Princeton,” said HMEI Director Michael Celia, the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering. “She will add tremendous strength to our scholarship in areas related to the environment and the environmental humanities.”

Carruth’s interests coincide with HMEI initiatives related to critical global challenges, including its growing focus on food and the environment and its Environmental Humanities Program, Celia said.

“During her time as the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow, the Princeton community experienced Allison’s unique and incisive thinking on a diverse range of topics,” Celia said. “With Allison now bringing her talent and creativity to Princeton full-time, I am especially excited to have her join the High Meadows Environmental Institute’s incredible group of faculty. I expect Allison to play a central role as HMEI continues to expand our environmental research and scholarship.”

Before coming to Princeton, Carruth co-founded and directed the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) at UCLA, which connects scholars from across disciplines with community partners, journalists and artists. Launched in 2015, LENS is an incubator for research on — and experimentation with — multimedia environmental narrative.

A chapter in Carruth’s upcoming book, Novel Ecologies (under contract with University of Chicago Press), informed a public lecture she delivered at Princeton as the fall 2019 Anschutz fellow. Novel Ecologies argues that a new imagination of nature has developed out of confrontations over the past four decades between engineering and environmentalism. The project terms this imagination nature remade, a framework centered on the West Coast that increasingly influences a wide range of fields, from architecture and civil engineering to molecular biology, geoscience, and conservation.

Carruth’s previous books include Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and, with Amy L. Tigner, Literature and Food Studies (Routledge, 2018). She has published over 30 articles in a range of venues, from Agriculture and Human Values to Modernism/Modernity and has edited, with Robert P. Marzec, Visualizing the Environment, a special issue of Public Culture (2014), and, with Ursula K. Heise, Environmental Humanities, a special issue of American Book Review (2011).

At UCLA, she held the Waldo W. Neikirk Chair for undergraduate education innovation from 2018 to 2021, and chaired the food studies minor.

Her food studies research brought her to Princeton in 2016 to present a paper titled “The Culinary Lab” at the conference “Critical Consumption: The Future of Food Studies,” organized by the Program in American Studies with support from the then-Princeton Environmental Institute. She was also a principal investigator in the Program in American Studies’ inaugural Col(LAB), “Food Matters: Risk and Privilege,” a collaboration with the CST StudioLab and Campus Dining Food and Agriculture Initiative.