Make Ecologies Strange:

to trouble “commonsense” ecologies in order to expose exclusions, settler histories, violences, politics.

“Make Ecologies Strange” is a multimedia exhibit highlighting twelve breaching experiments and art installations intended to provoke and trouble “commonsense” ecologies in and around the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. 

Breaching experiments were pioneered by sociologist Harold Garfinkel, who had his students perform experiments to make evident certain social assumptions that usually go unnoticed. But what happens, we ask, when we include the more-than-human in the social? 

In the Spring of 2023 we gathered as a class called “Ecologies of Belonging” at the University of Pennsylvania to trouble commonsense ecologies, the everyday places that we inhabit without question.

In this group photo Dr. Rachel Cypher and students posed with one week’s worth of trash that we collected to experience what it would be like if we did not have waste management facilities that we take for granted.

From left to right top row: Adrien Wilson-Thompson, Trevor Arellano, Nora Wang, Jewan Goo, Madeline Ahola, Christin Clyburn, Amanda Sweeney

Left to right bottom row: Rachel Cypher, Anna Hochman, Clara Secaira, Victoria Antoinette Megens, Maira Asif, Lia Enriquez

We approached this question with socio-environmental justice in mind.

Students sought to describe the way the living world interacts with us, as in Ahola’s “Trees See Too,” and to make evident the displacement of native plants with nonnative plants as a project of Indigenous displacement, as in Enriquez’s “William Hamilton Killed Lenapehoking.” Sweeney describes UPenn’s complicit and violent removal of Black Bottom residents, while Megens highlights the nature of survival through a lone Red Pine near the railroad tracks.

We encourage you to explore and click through on each installation and experiment and to be inspired to never take the ecologies around you for granted.

Trevor Arellano — “The River is Alive Within Us”

Trevor is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania double majoring in Anthropology and Health and Societies. Trevor is from Lawrence, Kansas Meditation Begin by finding a comfortable and quiet place where you can sit or lie down preferably next to a...

Adrien Wilson-Thompson — “Urban Students Deserve to Breathe”

Adrien Wilson-Thompson — “Urban Students Deserve to Breathe”

Adrien Wilson-Thompson is a rising senior majoring in Anthropology. She is from Maryland.  For her art installation, she chose to work with natural earth mineral paint and found rocks. She constructed the installation at the James G. Kaskey Memorial Park (Bio...

Anna Hochman — “The Dead Don’t Stay Buried”

Anna Hochman — “The Dead Don’t Stay Buried”

Anna Hochman is a sophomore Urban Studies major from San Francisco. For her art installation, she worked with cotton ribbon and biodegradable twine. The installation is located on one of the Woodlands’ oak trees in order to call attention to the extraordinary merging...

Madeline Ahola — “Trees See Too”

Madeline Ahola — “Trees See Too”

Trees in front of Van Pelt library, 35mm film photo by author  “[Landscapes] are linked to multiple histories and rhythms that can   help us escape from thinking of nature or history as singular” (5)  Many urban college campuses are designed with...

Nora Wang — “Rivers Defy Design”

Nora Wang — “Rivers Defy Design”

Nora Wang is from Nashville, Tennessee. She’s currently a rising junior studying anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.  The river flows from the Appalachian Mountains to the Delaware, curving and twisting like a blue...

The following land acknowledgement is written by Madeline Ahola: 

It is important to acknowledge the life that resides on stolen land and the long history that has brought it here. 

The first written emergence story of the Lenape begins with a Turtle and the earth that formed on its back. The first tree grew on this earth, and then came its first sprouts. The sprouts then became the first Man and Woman, from which the People came to be[1]. The Lenape coexisted with the land, taking advantage of its tillable land and fishing access[2]. They used natural resources to build homes and often situated themselves along rivers and creeks[3]. In 1682, William Penn settled on Lenape lands because it was guaranteed to him by the King of England, Charles II. Although William Penn established relationships of goodwill with the Lenape, after his death, his son, Thomas Penn, created the Walking Purchase of 1737, a deceitful plan to trick the Lenape into selling most of their land[1].

As of 2010, around 13,000 residents of Philadelphia identify as Native American. Today, Lenape, Cherokee, Navajo, Cree, Seminole, and Creek tribe descendants remain in Philadelphia[1].






Webpage designed by Emily Kaufman
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