Humanities Institute

Spring 2019 Difficult Dialogues Public Forum with Dr. Paige West: "Hard Choices & Opportunities: Environment and Economy"

Tue, January 1, 2019
Spring 2019 Difficult Dialogues Public Forum with Dr. Paige West:
Paige West

On April 16, the UT Humanities Institute partnered with Planet Texas 2050 to host a Difficult Dialogues Public Forum featuring a presentation by Paige West, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University. Her presentation took place on Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm in the Quadrangle Room at the Texas Union (2308 Whitis Avenue). Dr. West's talk was titled “Hard Choices & Opportunities: Environment and Economy" and drew on her research in Papua New Guinea to discuss questions such as: How can researchers galvanize social and political action for change around climate-related issues? How can writing about climate change ethnographically allow scholars to reach a broader public?

The forum featured a response by Jason Cons, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UT Austin and a discussion moderated by Pauline Strong, Director of the Humanities Institute.

There was also be an open discussion with Dr. West on Tuesday, April 16 from 3:00 - 4:30 PM in the Robert L Patton Hall's Glickman Conference Center (RLP 1.302E) especially for faculty and students.

About the Guest Speaker: 
Paige West, who is the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, joined the faculty at Barnard College and Columbia University in 2001, the year after earning her Ph.D. in cultural and environmental anthropology at Rutgers University. Dr. West’s broad scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. More specifically, she has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Australia, Germany, England, and the United States.

Dr. West’s books are Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (Columbia University Press, 2016), From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (Duke University Press, 2012), and Conservation is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (Duke University Press, 2006). 

About the Difficult Dialogues / Planet Texas 2050 Lecture Series on the Environment:
Dr. West's talk and panel discussion is one of two public panels co-sponsored by the Humanities Institute and Planet Texas 2050. The first public forum took place in Fall 2018 and featured a presentation by Dr. Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Waveand Palaces for the People

The Humanities Institute’s Difficult Dialogues program aims to bring resources for facilitating dialogue on difficult and controversial topics to the classroom and the public. Founded in 2006 at the University of Texas, Difficult Dialogues began as part of a Ford Foundation initiative developed in response to reports of growing intolerance and efforts to curb academic freedom on U.S. campuses. The program’s public forums focusing on current controversial topics complement its associated undergraduate courses and engage a broader public.

Planet Texas 2050 is the first of the university's Bridging Barriers initiatives, which are aimed at tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time. Developed in 2016, Planet Texas 2050 promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and research around climate change, extreme weather, population, and resource management for the purpose of creating a more sustainable future.

About the Respondent: 
Jason Cons is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He works on borders in South Asia, climate and agrarian change, and rural development. He has conducted extensive research in Bangladesh on a range of issues including: climate security, disputed territory along the India-Bangladesh border, the impacts of shrimp aquaculture in coastal areas, the politics of development, and recipient experiences with microcredit. His current research is situated in the Sundarbans region and explores the ways that imaginations of the impacts of future climate change are shaping the delta and the India-Bangladesh border in the present.

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