2021 History Writer in Residence Gregg Mitman
Week of March 22, Dates/Times TBA
Viral Exchanges: Hotspots, Spillovers, and the Reordering of Life (lecture)
The word “hotspot” can mean a place where fires flare, where novel viruses appear, where human rage erupts. In the turbulence of ecological, public health, and political crises, hotspots portend disaster and death. Too often hotspots and the menaces they pose are only made visible, only made objects of concern, when they threaten lives most valued in the brutal structures of capitalism and white supremacy that have gone hand in hand for more than four hundred years. Drawing upon work in Liberia, this talk interrogates the ecological, economic, political and social forces at play that have simultaneously turned certain regions into profitable sites of natural resource extraction, productive enclaves of biomedical research, and hot zones of pandemic threats.
The Land Beneath Our Feet (film)
The Land Beneath Our Feet follows a young Liberian man, uprooted by war, who returns from the USA with never-before-seen footage of Liberia’s past. The uncovered footage is embraced as a national treasure. Depicting a 1926 corporate land grab, it is also an explosive reminder of eroding land rights. In post-conflict Liberia, individuals and communities are pitted against multinational corporations, the government, and each other in life-threatening disputes over land. What can this ghostly footage offer a nation, as it debates radical land reforms that could empower communities to shape a more diverse, stable and sustainable future?
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Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and teacher whose interests span the history of science, medicine, and the environment in the United States and the world. A past president of the American Society for Environmental History, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, among others. His books and co-edited volumes include Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene(University of Chicago Press, 2018), 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). He co-produced and co-directed two films, 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. His most recent book, A World of Firestone: Capitalism, American Empire, and the Promise of Liberia, will be published by The New Press.
Registration is required to participate by Zoom. Complete the form below to receive the zoom link by email.
This event is co-presented by the UMass/Five College Graduate Program in History as part of the 2020 History Writer-In-Residence Program. Supported by Five Colleges, Inc., this programs hosts renowned writers whose historical work engages broad public audiences
The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass Amherst history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg ’67 and associates. The series is co-sponsored by more than 3 dozen university and community organizations.