Janet O'Shea

Professor, University of California, Los Angeles - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Janet O

As an academic, it’s expected that I fly to give talks, participate in conferences, and attend meetings for scholarly societies. After reading George Monbiot’s Heat, when it came out in 2006, I reduced my flying to one long-haul trip per year. But I found it hard to maintain a presence in my field as I declined invitations to speak at distant locales.

I released a new book this year and have received a new round of speaking engagements. Like other academics concerned about the climate crisis, I face a quandary: decline invitations and hamper the chances of my ideas circulating or accept invitations and confront my hypocrisy in flying while writing about the environmental crisis.

Recently, I have begun to experiment with slow ground transport as an alternative to flight, even when traveling for professional purposes. I am also working closely with the scholarly society of my field to reduce the carbon footprint of conferences by allowing virtual presentations and encouraging ground transportation options for participants. I believe that scholarly societies and academic institutions need to create the space, time, and funding to support on-the-ground travel to help mitigate the climate crisis. An added benefit of slow travel for professional purposes is that it allows us to embrace slow scholarship, working against pressures to constantly produce and giving us opportunities for contemplation, something that academic research depends upon for its quality.

I am the author of Risk, Failure, Play: What Dance Reveals about Martial Arts Training (Oxford University Press 2019) and At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage (Wesleyan University Press 2007). My essays have been published in five languages and seven countries.

My current research project, Bodies on the Line: Physical Risk and Social Justice, focuses on the role of corporeal risk-taking and political advocacy in three direct action arenas: urban cycling campaigns, border humanitarian aid, and farmed animal rescue.