Linfield faculty to discuss use of the term ‘eco-terrorism’

Two Linfield College professors will explore the use of the term “eco-terrorism” during the first faculty lecture of the year Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield.

Lisa Weidman, assistant professor of mass communication, and David Sumner, associate professor of English and environmental studies, will present “Eco-terrorism or Eco-tage: An Argument for the Proper Frame.”

The lecture will trace the history of the term “eco-terrorism” and its use in the United States to stigmatize the protest activities of environmentalists. Weidman and Sumner will report on their research, which assessed acceptance of the term in public discourse, specifically in U.S. newspapers, and found that the term has been widely adopted. Drawing on theories from rhetoric and mass communication, the authors argue for a linguistic and ethical distinction between acts intended to harm humans and acts intended to harm only property.

“We concluded that the politicized term ‘eco-terrorism’ is an inaccurate label for the activities of environmental activists, for whom the sacredness of life is a core value,” Weidman said.

Sumner and Weidman worked with Linfield students on the project, who helped to analyze newspaper articles that contained the word “eco-terrorism.” Research findings were first presented at the annual conference of the European Society for Environmental History in Turku, Finland, in June 2011. The paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment.

Sumner arrived at Linfield in 2004 and in addition to teaching, also directs the writing program. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, where he focused on the relationship between American nature writing and environmental ethics. He also holds a master’s from Brigham Young University, and a bachelor’s from the University of Utah. He has published several articles on the genre and ethics of nature writing and western American literature as well as a series of interviews with contemporary nature writers. As a Fulbright fellow in 2007, Sumner taught courses in American nature writing and western American literature at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He has also delivered invited lectures on these topics at several universities in Germany as well as at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Weidman, at Linfield since 2009, teaches courses in journalism, public relations and advertising. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California at Davis and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in media administration and mass communications, respectively, from Syracuse University. She has published several articles and book chapters that examine influences on media content, as well as other mass-communication topics.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.