Past Event

Jennifer Wenzel - The Disposition of Nature

February 24, 2020
6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
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The Heyman Center for the Humanities (Second Floor Common Room), Columbia University

Event Description: 

How do literature and other cultural forms shape how we imagine the planet, for better or worse? In The Disposition of Nature: Environmental Crisis and World Literature, Jennifer Wenzel tackles the formal innovations, rhetorical appeals, and sociological imbrications of world literature that might help us confront unevenly distributed environmental crises, including global warming. The Disposition of Nature argues that assumptions about what nature is are at stake in conflicts over how it is inhabited or used. Both environmental discourse and world literature scholarship tend to confuse parts and wholes. Working with writing and film from Africa, South Asia, and beyond, Wenzel takes a contrapuntal approach to sites and subjects dispersed across space and time. Reading for the planet, Wenzel shows, means reading from near to there: across experiential divides, between specific sites, at more than one scale.

Impressive in its disciplinary breadth, Wenzel’s book fuses insights from political ecology, geography, anthropology, history, and law, while drawing on active debates between postcolonial theory and world literature, as well as scholarship on the Anthropocene and the material turn. In doing so, the book shows the importance of the literary to environmental thought and practice, elaborating how a supple understanding of cultural imagination and narrative logics can foster more robust accounts of global inequality and energize movements for justice and livable futures.

Event Speakers: 

  • Jennifer Wenzel, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University
  • Mary Louise Pratt, retired Professor at New York University
  • Eleanor Johnson, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University
  • Elizabeth Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University
  • Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies and Director of the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University

Event Information:

Free and open to the public; no RSVP necessary. Please visit the event webpage for additional information. Please follow the Heyman Center's website for directions.

Sponsored by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Office of the Divisional Deans in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies.