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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2019-2020 Preview: Katz Distinguished Lectures

Next year’s Katz Distinguished Lectures will touch on everything From Native American Earthworks that challenge the “new” in “New Materialism” and the art of living in the Anthropocene to mass incarceration and prison abolition, thanks to a stellar lineup of speakers, which includes Chadwick Allen (University of Washington), Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (University of California, Santa Cruz), and Ruth Wilson Gilmore (The Graduate Center, City University of New York). Below, we offer brief profiles of each speaker and their cutting edge work.

Chadwick Allen (UW, English)

7 pm, Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Professor of English and an Adjunct Professor of American Indian Studies, Allen will deliver the first Katz Distinguished Lecture for 2019-2020. Allen's scholarship in Native American and Indigenous literary and cultural studies works across a range of genres, aesthetic systems, and knowledge traditions.  He is the author of Blood Narrative: Indigenous Identity in American Indian and Maori Literary and Activist Texts (Duke, 2002) and Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies (U of Minnesota, 2012).  He also happens to be UW's Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement.

Allen says his talk will come out of the book he’s currently completing and hopes to have finished by the fall. Under the working title Earthworks Rising, the book is a wide-ranging investigation into how contemporary Native writers, artists, performers, and communities have been engaging ancient earthworks and earthworks principles: in poems, novels, essays, and drama, in visual and installation art, and in built environments. Across these multiple forms, writers, artists, and intellectuals have been exploring what it means to literally encode knowledge and story into the land itself.  In addition to highlighting specific examples of contemporary Indigenous literature and art, Allen says his talk will also focus on issues of methodology, in terms of both the highly collaborative nature of much of his primary research and the specific challenges of writing about Indigenous ways of knowing within--and often against--the orthodox conventions of academic scholarship.

Earlier this year, we wrote about the work that Allen is also doing in conjunction with other American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) faculty and grad students in order to develop AIIS graduate studies at the UW. You can read the story here.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (UC Santa Cruz, Anthropology)

7 pm, Tuesday, February 25, 2020

In his review of Anne Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, 2017), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen writes that while much contemporary environmental writing reads like elegies that disregard “a complicated present” and “offer an insufficient story” of the Anthropocene, Tsing’s work asks “what would happen if we ceased looking back towards the planet’s vanished past, ceased to peer futureward for signs of cataclysm or salvation, and instead observed with ardor and with care the world in which we actually dwell?” Tsing’s prize-winning book does this by tracing the ecological and economic life of the matsutake mushrooms that flourish on the floors of dramatically human-altered woodlands, where they give way to multispecies communities through which Tsing “conveys a milieu of vibrant subsurface interconnection, composing with care a layered story that emerges slowly, yielding both example and delight.”

Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhaus University in Denmark, where she codirects Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA), Tsing is well-known for her far-reaching and interdisciplinary work in the environmental humanities and ethnography, exploring not only how the Anthropocene extinguishes life, but also how to gives way to new modes of living. You can listen to and/or read an interview with Tsing about her edited volume, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) here.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore (The Graduate Center, CUNY, Geography)

7 pm, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

In April, The New York Times Magazine ran a powerful profile of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who has spent the past three decades advocating for prison abolition, which, for Gilmore, “means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack,” writes Rachel Kushner. Throughout the piece, Kushner describes how Gilmore—who earned her PhD at the age of 47 and then went on to more or less single-handedly invent the field of “carceral geography”—has strategically built coalitions among existing social movements in order to stop the building of new prisons and stem the tide of mass incarceration that she describes in her seminal book, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007).

Professor of Geography in the doctoral program of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Associate Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at The Graduate Center at CUNY, Gilmore will deliver the final Katz Lecture of 2019-2020.