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Humanities Center Lecture Series Public Lecture: Gregg Mitman

April 04, 2017
05:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library

Gregg Mitman, Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin presents "Parasites of Capital: Tales of Ecology and Disease in a Neoliberal Age."

SARS. Avian influenza.  Ebola.  Transgressions across animal/human borders?  Industrial diseases of our own making?  Causal explanations abound.  Ecological perspectives on emerging diseases proliferate, from the dynamics of host-microbe interactions to cycles of global capital.  But new forms of life and their ecological understandings have been emerging in industrial landscapes in the making for generations of humans and microbes.  This talk explores how industrial hygiene, engineering, and film became integral to the infrastructure, logic, and visions of development advanced by Firestone Plantations Company in Liberia and how the world that Firestone built created conditions of life conducive to a virus’s emergence and spread.

Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His interests span the history of science, medicine, and the environment in the United States and the world and reflect a commitment to environmental and social justice. His recent works include Documenting the World: Film, Photography, and the Scientific Record (University of Chicago Press, 2016), Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape our Lives and Landscapes (Yale University Press, 2007), and Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wildlife on Film, rev. ed. (University of Washington Press, 2009). Mitman is the founding director of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a past president of the American Society for Environmental History.

During the last decade, Mitman has increasingly focused on public humanities projects. In 2007, he created the Tales from Planet Earth film festival, which has brought together artists, academics and the public to explore the power of storytelling through film as a force of environmental and social change. Under his leadership, CHE, in collaboration with Munich’s Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and Stockholm’s KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, hosted a 2014 experimental performance, The Anthropocene Slam: A Cabinet of Curiosities.  The project was duplicated in Australia and Switzerland and a book, Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in the fall of 2017.

Mitman’s current work is a multimedia project—film, book, and public history website—exploring the history and legacy of the Firestone Plantations Company in Liberia. He recently co-produced and co-directed with Sarita Siegel, In the Shadow of Ebola, an intimate portrait of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, and The Land Beneath Our Feet, a documentary on history, memory, and land rights in Liberia.

Category: Lectures and Seminars