SILC student merges disciplines, explores sustainability through language


February 15, 2017

Vera Coleman has a strong interest in environmental and social debates. Coleman also loves studying Spanish culture, literature and language. Through her PhD dissertation and the School of International Letters and Culture, she has found a way to bring the disciplines together.

Her dissertation is titled “Beyond the Anthropocene: Multispecies Encounters in Contemporary Latin American Literature, Art, and Film.” Quote by Vera Coleman Quote by Vera Coleman Download Full Image

Coleman has looked at how Latin American artists pull nature into their work, and applying those findings to environmental solutions.

In an explanation of her research, Coleman wrote, “Writers, filmmakers and artists of Latin America today verge away from pessimistic images of environmental destruction and instead look to mutually beneficial interactions among members of different species as a beacon of hope lighting up a better future for our shared planet.”

“I’m interested in the ways that contemporary 21st-century Latin American writers, filmmakers and artists are confronting this notion of the Anthropocene, which is still being hotly debated,” Coleman said, speaking to SILC from the Modern Language Association Convention in Philadelphia.

The Anthropocene, as Coleman describes it, is a label used by some scientists and cultural theorists to describe the current age in terms of global human impact.

“I was a biology major for two years and took courses in genetics and evolution and chemistry and physics, and then became really passionate about Spanish literature,” Coleman said. “I kind of thought that those two years were wonderful, but I don’t know what I’d end up doing with them.”

“I became very interested in SILC and ASU. I was very drawn to the fact that it’s a multi-language school,” she continued. “There’s not just a Spanish department, but a school that has multiple languages working and collaborating together”.

Obviously, merging language and environmental study is complex, but Coleman found support for her many interests at the School of International Letters and Culture. Faculty support and guidance helped her find ways to meld different fields together.

“All the professors have been so welcoming of my ideas and so supportive of me wanting to take these risks and take these new perspectives and draw connections with other disciplines,” Coleman said.

Coleman started studying different art forms that comment on the environment in countries like Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. She even learned about indigenous communities in some of those countries.

Coleman has enjoyed exploring discussions about the environment outside of the English-speaking world and has enjoyed merging different areas of study at ASU.

“Cultural study looks at film and art and journalism and performance, digital media. So it’s the very broad focus on the notion of text,” Coleman explained. “So we can analyze whole different forms of cultural expression to get a sense of what’s going in these countries. Those are the things that I really liked, that really drew me to SILC.”

Gabriel Sandler