American Indian Studies Program

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Capitalism, Climate, and Cultural Study Symposium

Event Type
UIUC Environmental Humanities Research Cluster / Landscape Architecture / Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Levis Faculty Center 210
Sep 29, 2023   9:30 am - 3:15 pm  
John Levi Barnard
Originating Calendar
Upcoming Events

In its most recent report on the projected impacts of global warming, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that the looming crisis will require not only new technologies, but also “fundamental changes to how society functions, including changes to underlying values, worldviews, ideologies, social structures, political and economic systems, and power relationships.” In framing it this way, the panel acknowledges what scholars across the humanities and social sciences have long been arguing—and what this symposium aims specifically to address: that climate change is a problem of culture in the broadest sense, ranging from global economic and political systems to our tastes in literature, television, travel, and other forms of consumption. Beginning with a keynote by Anna Kornbluh (English, University of Illinois, Chicago), and proceeding through panels considering colonial-capitalist development in India and the United States, the symposium will explore the historical emergence of this culture through its aesthetic forms, from literary production and political rhetoric to infrastructural projects and the built environment. More generally, we hope to advance and elaborate the convictions that bring us together as scholars simultaneously facing a climate crisis and a crisis in the humanities and higher ed more generally: that climate change constitutes a planetary emergency; that capitalism is a primary driver, both in the present and historically, of that emergency; and that literary and cultural studies are critical for understanding how we got into this predicament and for finding our way out.

Keynote Address:

Anna Kornbluh (English, UIC), “Mediating Immediacy: Climate Crux & Collective Arts”

Thursday 9/28 @ 5 PM / Levis Faculty Center 210


Symposium / Friday 9/29

Levis Faculty Center 210


Panel 1: 9:30-10:45AM

Elizabeth Chatterjee (History, U. of Chicago)

Stacy Balkan (English, Florida Atlantic U.)

Moderator: Rini Bhattacharya Mehta (Comparative & World Literature, UIUC)


Panel 2: 11AM-12:15PM

Paul Downes (English, U. of Toronto)

Jennifer James (English & Africana Studies, George Washington U.)

Moderator: Jamie Jones (English, UIUC)


Concluding Roundtable: 2-3:15 PM

Participants: Elizabeth Chatterjee, Stacy Balkan, Paul Downes, Jennifer James, Anna Kornbluh

Moderator: Amanda Ciafone (Media & Cinema Studies, UIUC)

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