News Story

March 13, 2020
HUCE Communications

Environmental Fellow Highlight: Alyssa Battistoni


By Jillian Murphy, Harvard University Center for the Environment

Each year, HUCE welcomes a new cohort of scholars through our Environmental Fellows program. These recent doctorate recipients have access to Harvard’s extraordinary resources, allowing them to tackle complex environmental issues within their academic disciplines. Alyssa Battistoni, one of our eight current fellows, comes to us from Yale where she completed her PhD in political science. With an impressive resume as a political theorist working at the intersection of environmental politics, political economy, and feminist thought, she fit right in and got right to work. On the heels of a fruitful first year, we checked in with her to see both her highlight reel and what’s on the horizon. 

You’ve had a productive first year as an Environmental Fellow—what’s a highlight that stands out to you?

Yes, it’s been a busy year! Honestly, the highlight has been getting to know my fellow Fellows—they are all really brilliant and lovely people. More generally, I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the huge range of work being done by people associated with HUCE at the biweekly HUCE dinners—they are a great way to introduce newcomers to the community of people involved in environmental work at Harvard and in the broader area.

HUCE is such an interdisciplinary and collaborative place—what about your research made you want to do a postdoc here?

My own work is very interdisciplinary, as I think it’s hard to understand environmental and climate politics without drawing on the insights of different disciplines. I did a master’s degree in geography and continue to read work in that field, as well as in history, ecology, economics, and various other fields across the social sciences, humanities, and sciences. But no one can know everything, and so my work has often been collaborative—I am one of four co-authors of A Planet to Win, for example. So HUCE seemed to me to be a perfect place to continue that work, and so far, that’s been borne out.

What’s it been like to be a political theorist in an environment-focused atmosphere? Has it affected your thoughts on environmental politics?

I’ve really enjoyed the chance to be at a center focused on the environment—in political theory conferences and workshops, I’m often the only person who is working on environmental issues, or one of a few, so it’s always been important to me to seek out spaces and communities where people are focused more intensively on the substantive questions of environmental thought and analysis. Being at HUCE has been very helpful in that regard—it’s been a useful reminder that other people are approaching environmental questions from very different perspectives than I am. It’s also been helpful for thinking about how people are thinking about environmental politics in different parts of the world, as when Roberto Unger gave a fascinating presentation on the political dynamics of the Amazon in Brazil. At the same time, I’m delighted to have connections to the Government department through my faculty sponsor, Katrina Forrester, a brilliant political theorist who has also worked on environmental questions.

Did you make any connections here that helped with research for your new book, A Planet to Win?

I’ve been excited to meet a group of people at the Graduate School of Design who have research interests that are very relevant to the topics in A Planet to Win, ranging from urban planning to labor practices to sustainable design. It’s been fascinating to learn more about their work bringing together social scientific and scientific research with political questions about justice and equity, in the way that A Planet to Win tries to do.

Do you have any goals set for your second year here?

When I haven’t been busy with work related to A Planet to Win, I’ve been doing research for my next major project, on climate change and democracy, and [I’m] starting to write up some of the initial ideas. So, in the coming year, I hope to start publishing some of that work. I’m also looking forward to getting more involved in various intellectual communities at Harvard now that I’ve gotten settled and know my way around a bit more!    

It’s exciting to imagine what will come out of the continued connections and collaborations that Alyssa will make here at Harvard, and it’s been a pleasure to have her voice and expertise here thus far. We’re looking forward to both witnessing and benefitting from the ways in which she tackles the complexities of our environment through political science in the rest of her time with us.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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