University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Futurities Lecture Series

How might we visualize possible futures in the age of technological intensification and climate crisis? Computer models predict irreversible climatic shocks that await us at the end of the century should we fail to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. Reckoning with global warming is also in a sense to reckon with ‘future reals’, a mode of hyperrealism of what is to come inevitably, irrevocably. Vistas of futures pregnant with promises of infinite growth and human flourishing appear to be vanishing as fast as Arctic ice. What might the limits of our current risk modeling exercises be, frequently predicated as they are on technofixes and a techno-optimism? How do speculative fiction and films envision the future? What resources have the arts and the humanities historically offered in helping us think about human life against the backdrop of vast non-human pasts and futures? The year-long IHGC lecture series will feature humanists, scientists, writers, artists, and policy experts who explore burning questions about our unfolding futures.

Each virtual talk will take place from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm


February 17. 2022

"Wet Futures: Reading for Rain"

Sarah Nuttall
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Sarah Nuttall is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies and Director of WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Postapartheid, editor of Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, and co-editor of many books including Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa; Senses of Culture; Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis; and, Loadshedding: Writing On and Over the Edge of South Africa. Recent essays include ‘Mandela’s Mortality’; ‘Secrecy’s Softwares’; ‘Surface, Depth and the Autobiographical Act’; ‘The Redistributed University’; and ‘The Earth as a Prison?’ She has given more than thirty keynote addresses around the world and published more than sixty journal articles and book chapters. Her work is widely cited across many disciplines. She has taught at Yale and Duke Universities and in 2016 she was an Oppenheimer Fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University. For seven years she has directed WiSER, the largest and most established Humanities Institute across the Global South.



March 24. 2022

"The Nutmeg's Curse: A Parable of the Anthropocene"

Amitav Ghosh
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Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford, and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and The Ibis Trilogy, consisting of Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire. His three most recent books, the novel Gun Island (2019) and the non-fiction The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) and The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021) are all works in environmental humanities. Ghosh's work has been translated into more than thirty languages and he has served on the juries of the Locarno and Venice film festivals. His essays have appeared in The New YorkerThe New Republic, and The New York Times. He holds two Lifetime Achievement awards and four honorary doctorates. In 2007, the President of India awarded him the Padma Shri, one of India's highest honors. Ghosh and Margaret Atwood jointly shared the 2010 Dan David Prize, and he was awarded the 2011 Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal. Ghosh was the first English-language writer to receive the 2018 Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honor. In 2019, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the most important global thinkers of the preceding decade.


April 7. 2022

“The Social in Social Distancing: Rethinking Stigma”

Carlo Caduff
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Dr Carlo Caduff is a Reader in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King's College London. He also serves as the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies and Chair of the Culture, Medicine and Power (CMP) research group. Carlo is an affiliate of King's India Institute and Visiting Faculty at the Graduate Institute Geneva. He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. His first book, The Pandemic Perhaps, shows how pandemic influenza became a global threat. Articles on biomedicine, bioscience and biosecurity have appeared in journals such as Cultural Anthropology, Current Anthropology, Critical Inquiry, BioSocieties, Annual Review of Anthropology, Cambridge Anthropology and Anthropological Theory.

Carlo's work explores global health at the intersection of science, medicine, media and the state. More recently, he started work on a new project on cancer in India. This work examines experiments with accessible and affordable care in public cancer centres. For his research, he received funding by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2019 Carlo received an Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust to examine, over the next five years, the changing landscape of oncology in India.


April 21. 2022

“Technology Eats History: Techno-metabolism and Time in the Anthropocene”
Paul Edwards

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Paul N. Edwards is William J. Perry Fellow in International Security and Senior Research Scholar at CISAC, as well as Professor of Information and History at the University of Michigan. At Stanford, his teaching includes courses in the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies and the Program in Science, Technology & Society. His research focuses on the history, politics, and culture of knowledge and information infrastructures. He focuses especially on environmental security (e.g. climate change, Anthropocene risks, and nuclear winter). 

Edwards’s book A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), a history of the meteorological information infrastructure, received the Computer Museum History Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the Louis J. Battan Award from the American Meteorological Society, and other prizes. The Economist magazine named A Vast Machine a Book of the Year in 2010. Edwards’s book The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996) — a study of the mutual shaping of computers, military strategy, and the cognitive sciences from 1945-1990 — won honorable mention for the Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science. It has been translated into French and Japanese. Edwards is also co-editor of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001) and Changing Life: Genomes, Ecologies, Bodies, Commodities (University of Minnesota Press, 1997), as well as numerous articles.