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Office of Sustainability
University of Mississippi

Keynote Press Release

Posted on: March 15th, 2021 by mlbarlo1

Petra Kuppers is the 2021 Earth Day Keynote Speaker


Update: View the recording here.

Keynote Press Release

International disability rights activist, poet, and environmental advocate Petra Kuppers is the University of Mississippi’s 2021 Earth Day keynote speaker. Kuppers will deliver her talk, “Gut Botany: Touching Earth,” on April 22 at 7pm via zoom. 

Kuppers is currently a Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she teaches courses on English, Women’s Studies, Theater, and Ecofeminism. She is also the author of a number of books examining disability culture, poetry, and community performance.   

As a result of her lifelong commitment to and exploration of disability rights, poetry, and performance, Kuppers has received the American Society for Theater Research’s award for Best Dance/Theater Book and The National Women’s Caucus for the Arts’ Award for Arts and Activism

Kuppers’ most recent work, Gut Botany, which will serve as the focal point of her Earth Day keynote, was named one of the top ten US poetry books of 2020 by the New York Public Library. In this book of experimental poetry, Kuppers utilizes a combination of surrealist and situationist techniques to examine her own life, the world around her, and her relationship with her body

Using Gut Botany as her guide, Kuppers’ keynote will “explore healing and the imagination in ecosomatic language touch, in order to invite you, the audience, to engage with your own environments, your home spaces, and the nest from which you are watching the Zoom.”

Environmentalism impels us to examine the world around us and our relationship to it; however, to Kuppers, it is impossible to isolate such examination from our physical bodies and the limitations they impose. Thus, a concern of both her courses and books, as well as her upcoming keynote, is unpacking the ways in which disability alters these understandings of the world. 

“Disability offers some interesting terrain to these kinds of queries,” Kuppers says. “Disability activists ask questions about interdependency, moving us away from the notion of the ‘environmentalist’ as some kind of Indiana Jones figure who breaks a path in untouched terrain and, then, has an epiphany on a cliff at the ocean’s edge.” 

By identifying ways in which disabled persons have been excluded from the environmental movement in the past as well as imagining pathways for accessibility in the future, Kuppers hopes to encourage a new way of thinking and a more inclusive environmentalism. 

Dr. Ann Fisher-Wirth, director of the University of Mississippi Environmental Studies program says, “Petra Kuppers is a brilliantly imaginative and creative artist, teacher, and performer. She is internationally known for her work with disability studies and sustainability, and she has the most radiant smile of anyone I know. We are so lucky to have her as our 2021 Earth Day speaker at the University of Mississippi.” 

To enjoy this event, register here and you will receive a zoom link to join. You can also register for this event at 

The virtual Earth Day Keynote will take place on April 22 at 7 p.m.