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2015 Seminar

Touring the Citadel

Touring the Citadel historic site in Amman, Jordan.

Sustainability on the Margins: Investigating Adaptation and Change in Jordan

On-site portion of the seminar: July 20-30, 2015

The fourth SAIL seminar, led by three professors from Knox College with participation by three-person teams of faculty from four other ACM colleges, drew on a variety of disciplinary perspectives to examine how issues of sustainability, broadly conceived, have shaped the peoples and places of Jordan.

Building on their experience together at an intensive, on-site seminar in Jordan during summer 2015, seminar participants have created new, multidisciplinary learning opportunities on their campuses for students at advanced levels.

The seminar topic was developed by the leadership team and all seminar participants were selected by the SAIL Steering Committee through a competitive process.

Seminar Leadership Team

The 2015 SAIL Seminar leaders are:

  • Katherine Adelsberger, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and the Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair of Earth Sciences, Knox College
  • Daniel Beers, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Knox College
  • Danielle Steen Fatkin, Assistant Professor of History, Knox College

Read more about the Leadership Team and see the list of seminar participants.

Visiting Petra

Visiting the ancient city of Petra

Seminar Overview

Read more in the article "Exploring Sustainability in Jordan"

The Sustainability on the Margins seminar focused on the questions: "What do sustainable environmental, cultural, and political practices look like? What are unsustainable practices? How do we engage students in the task of understanding the consequences – immediate and long-term – of decisions made about global resources and of prioritizing competing claims over them?"

The seminar explored these questions in Jordan, where modern and historical groups have struggled to create and maintain sustainable societies. Jordan is a particularly rich place in which to explore the topic of sustainability because it faces ongoing threats to its environment, government, and heritage.

The seminar leaders drew on their disciplinary backgrounds in environmental science, history and classics, and political science to encourage participants to consider the example of the various issues of sustainability that have confronted Jordan throughout its history and that continue to challenge Jordanian society in the modern era.

Seminar participants examined:

  • The natural environment and its effects on human populations from antiquity to the modern day;
  • Responses to economic challenges in the age of global capitalism;
  • Responses to political challenges in the context of resource scarcity, conflict and refugee flows;
  • The role of cultural institutions, such as art and religion, in sustaining human groups historically; and
  • The connections and productive tensions created by the intersections of these topics.

The on-site portion of the seminar in Jordan focused on several case studies in sustainability and made use of opportunities to engage with local experts and government officials. Trips outside of Amman ranged from the wetland at Azraq to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Petra to the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark.

Site visits, preparatory readings, and seminar discussions explored sociocultural, historical, and environmental topics. Such a broadly constructed notion of "sustainability" facilitated multidisciplinary discussion about the competing demands on limited resources that students face in life beyond the classroom.

Anchored by the topic of sustainability, the seminar was designed to aid in the development of new interdisciplinary courses and of interdisciplinary components of existing upper-level courses that emphasize problem solving, informed decision-making, and the creation of an active, engaged citizenry capable of making responsible resource choices in a complicated, globally-connected world.