This year, the Fisher Center speaker series is exploring “Gender, Climate, and the Anthropocene.” The theme was chosen for the way it encourages the connections between human planetary impact and the systems through which our societies reproduce themselves, says Professor of Political Science and Director of the Fisher Center Jodi Dean. “Inextricable from a culture of respect, is respect for our environment, for the ecologies in which our actions have material effects which may not be immediately apparent,” Dean notes.
“We are excited about this year’s speakers,” says Dean. “Not only do they take up crucial issues of climate change, but they challenge us to link climate change with questions of sex and gender.” Central to the series will be dialogue around the gendered dimensions of the Anthropocene, a term coined by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen to designate the time when human actions started to have geological effects.
The first speaker was Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her talk, “Before Biopower and After: Geontopower,” was held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23 in the Fisher Center in Demarest Hall. The discussion explored the belated emergence of geontopower, which is the power organized around the division between life and nonlife.
Povinelli is best known for explorations of intimacy, indigeneity, and abandonment. She is the author of Labor’s Lot: The Power, History, and Culture of Aboriginal Action (1994), The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (2002), The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality (2006), and Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (2011).
Later in the semester, Frédéric Neyrat led a discussion titled “Cosmophagy, Cinema and Anthropocene” on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Fisher Center. Neygrat is a French philosopher and former program director at Collége international de philosophie in Paris. He is currently lecturing in comparative literature at University of Wisconsin Madison, where he concentrates on contemporary philosophy, environmental humanities, and theory of images. He is the author of 10 books and numerous articles. In his Fisher Center lecture, Neyrat argued that the truth of the Anthropocene is cosmophagy (the destruction of non-human dimensions). He illustrated his thesis with examples from eco-apocalyptic cinema. Jennifer Cazenave, the Fisher Center Research Fellow and Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in French and Francophone Studies, delivered a response to Neyrat, “Cinema in the Aftermath of the Catastrophe.” Cazenave considered how cinema and philosophy were impacted by the experience of the Holocaust. She also touched on the word “catastrophe” and its use in film studies.
The following week, Fisher Center hosted an arts-collective called “Not An Alternative.” On Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Fisher Center, this Brooklyn-based arts collective presented its project, The Natural History Museum, a work of socially engaged art that functions as a political campaign and a counter-institution. The Natural History Museum challenges fossil fuel industry green-washing. Not An Alternative’s work has been presented in art institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Museo del Arte Moderno.
The semester concluded with presentations from two Fisher Center Faculty Research Fellows on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Fisher Center. Pre-doctoral candidate Nicholas Beuret focused on the political and aquatic aspects of climate change. Through examination of the 2009 international climate change conference and the upcoming climate talks in Paris, Beuret addressed the gap between what is politically possible and what is scientifically necessary to produce an international agreement to limit climate change. Beuret is a doctoral candidate at the University of Leicester, UK. His research interrogates the politics and philosophy of ecological catastrophe. Beuret has been active in environmental and social justice movements for more than 20 years and was involved in the campaign to secure the world’s first climate change legislation in the UK and at the 2009 international climate change talks in Copenhagen.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Elizabeth Johnson presented a talk titled “Our Futures with Jellyfish: Dreams of Ecological Apocalypse and Everlasting Life.” Johnson discussed the rise of interest in jellyfish and how they play a vital role in the future of life on earth. A human-environment geographer, she studies the growing role of the biosciences in generating technological production without ecological limits.
The Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men was established in 1998 to support curricular, programmatic, and scholarly projects which address the question: How do we more nearly realize, through our educational program, scholarship, and presence in the larger community, our democratic ideals of equity, mutual respect, and common interest in relations between men and women?
“I think the Fisher Center is one of the most vibrant sites of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary work on campus,” says Hannah Dickinson, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric and a committee member of the Fisher Center. The themes continually change year by year and are “consistently provocative and timely, allowing outside scholars, faculty members, students, activists, and members of the Geneva community to come together around important intellectual and political questions.”
“By emphasizing respect for the earth and environment we are able to connect to the local Geneva community and the current efforts to conserve Seneca Lake,” Dickinson says.