Michael Horka is a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies. His dissertation entitled, “The Historical Climate: Science Fiction and Politics in a Time of Global Climate Governance,” examines the impact of both authors and speculative texts upon climate change politics since the 1980s. His teaching and research interests include U.S. popular culture and fiction, environmental justice movements, political economy, and critical theory approaches including Marxist, black feminist, psychoanalytic, and affect theory.
Michael was recognized with GWU's Phillip J. Amsterdam Graduate Teaching Award in 2016 for teaching excellence. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Graduate Instructorship for his new course entitled "Science Fiction and Climate Change." His writing can be found in An Ecotopian Lexicon, edited by Brent Ryan Bellamy and Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, (Univ. of Minnesota Press), forthcoming in October 2019.
What are you studying/working on right now?
I am working on the first chapter of my dissertation. It considers the literary and affective significance of feminist apocalypses in the 1980s from an ecocritical perspective.
What did you do before you arrived at GW?
I received a degree in business administration, specializing in marketing. It was my exposure to Catholic social teaching that turned me towards ideas of "social justice" and to critical thinking about capitalism, poverty, and identity. After a number of years in lay ministry and then as a buyer for a small business association, I began to consider graduate school in the humanities. I worked on a project on sexuality and power within the Catholic priesthood to create a writing sample, since my undergraduate work was not in American studies or a related field.
Why American Studies and why GW?
Aside from Catholic social teaching, my interest in American Studies was sparked by the humanities/social science courses I took as an undergrad. I was pushed towards American studies by the professor that helped me create a writing sample, who is a historian at Wayne State in Detroit named David Goldberg. I chose GW because of the strength of the faculty in my areas of research.
What is your favorite book?
Picking my favorite book would be like picking my favorite child (if I had any children). I don't have any children. Really.
What is your favorite thing to do in DC?
Wait for the Red Line on the weekends. Just kidding. I like to take advantage of seeing some of the academic and cultural voices that visit. I have heard Toni Morrison, Slavoj Žižek, Naomi Klein, Pope Francis, and many others since I arrived.
What advice would you give to the GW undergrads in American Studies?
American Studies will give you a unique skill set (critical thinking, cultural analysis, etc.) that will be applicable to any path you take. The humanities are precisely what we need at this challenging moment.
Phillip J. Amsterdam Teaching Award. Read more about Michael's award here.