Home All Events - Center for Culture, History, and Environment Common Places: Keywords for a More Than Human World

Common Places: Keywords for a More Than Human World

We invite you to join us for a one-day conference in honor of Professor Emeritus William Cronon, who held the position of Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before his recent retirement.

The gathering will feature a special keynote address by Cronon and presentations written in Cronon’s honor by former students who earned a PhD under his guidance. Panel discussions will focus on the shifting cultural meanings of keywords that have guided their mentor’s thinking about nature, space, and history, in the tradition of Raymond Williams’ classic book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society.

The conference will build on Cronon’s work as a scholar, teacher, and writer to explore the many ways history and geography can serve as tools for understanding the past, present, and future of humanity.

More About the Conference

For many of Cronon’s advisees, a formative moment came when they encountered in his seminar the classic book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society by Welsh scholar and writer Raymond Williams, in which Williams explored the changing meanings of words that, in his view, had profoundly shaped political and social life in the English-speaking world.

In recognition of that moment, Cronon’s former students are creating a similar volume featuring keywords—from “alien” to “energy” to “story” to “wonder”—that have guided their mentor’s thinking about nature, space, and history. At the conference, presenters will discuss the essays they’ve written in Cronon’s honor, while Cronon himself will end the afternoon by sharing his own thoughts about keywords that can open up fresh ways of thinking about a more-than-human world.

The conference has been organized by Karl Jacoby, Allan Nevins Professor of American History at Columbia University, and Susan Lee Johnson, Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Conference Program

When you register, you can choose to attend the main conference, the keynote address, or both.

8–8:15 a.m.


8:15–8:30 a.m.


  • Anne Hansen, Chair, Department of History, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Susan Lee Johnson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Karl Jacoby, Columbia University

8:30–10 a.m.

Natives and Newcomers

  • Chair/Comment: Doug Kiel, Northwestern University
  • Alien, James W. Feldman, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
  • Pest, Dawn Biehler, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Citizen, Daniel A. Grant, Writer
  • Pollution, David Stradling, University of Cincinnati
  • Boundary, Samuel Truett, University of New Mexico

10–10:15 a.m.

Coffee break

10:15–11:45 a.m.

The Wild and the Tame

  • Chair/Comment: Sarah Mittlefehldt, Northern Michigan University
  • Wilderness, Rachel S. Gross, University of Colorado Denver
  • Domestic, Flannery Burke, Saint Louis University
  • Stewardship, Lynne Heasley, Western Michigan University
  • Environmentalism, Jenny Price, Writer and Public Artist

11:45 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Lunch on your own

12:45–2:15 p.m.

The City and the Country

  • Chair/Comment: Thomas G. Andrews, University of Colorado Boulder
  • City, William Barnett, North Central College
  • Country, Gregory Summers, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Health, Christopher C. Sellers, Stony Brook University
  • Land, John Suval, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

2:15–2:30 p.m.

Coffee break

2:30–4 p.m.

A Storied World

  • Chair/Comment: Marsha Weisiger, University of Oregon
  • Animal, Kendra Smith-Howard, University at Albany
  • Human, Keith Woodhouse, Northwestern University
  • Science, Kevin Rozario, Smith College
  • Progress, Michael Rawson, Brooklyn College
  • History, Philip J. Deloria, Harvard University

4:30 p.m.

William Cronon’s keynote address
“Looking Back on a Long Journey: People, Places, and Stories”

In this keynote, Professor Cronon will give us a sense of his path-breaking research in environmental history and the central role that storytelling plays in how he conceptualizes his work.

The keynote address can be viewed either in person at the Discovery Building or online. You can choose your participation preference when you register.

5:30 p.m.


Event Partners

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Geography

Department of History

Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Those who wish to make a gift in Bill’s honor may direct their donations toward the Department of Geography Fund, the Department of History Annual Fund, or the Nelson Institute Culture, History, and Environment Fund.


Apr 30 2022


8:00 am - 6:30 pm

More Info



Discovery Building
330 N. Orchard St.


Giuliana Chamedes