Ian Baucom at the CUNY Graduate Center: Seminar and Public Talk

The Revolutionizing American Studies Initiative at the CUNY Graduate Center presents a day with Ian Baucom. there will be two events: A seminar at 12:00pm and a public talk at 4pm. Details from the circulated announcement below. The readings will be available for download here until 7 December.


Friday, December 6th
Ian Baucom works on twentieth century British Literature and Culture, postcolonial and cultural studies, and African and Black Atlantic literatures. He is the author of Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity (1999, Princeton University Press), Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History (2005, Duke University Press), and co-editor of Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain (2005, Duke University Press). He has edited special issues of the South Atlantic Quarterly on Atlantic Studies and Romanticism, and is currently working on a new book project tentatively entitled The Disasters of War: On Inimical Life. Prof. Baucom received his Ph.D. from Yale University and taught there before joining the English Department at Duke. Prior to assuming the post of the Director of the Franklin Humanities Institute, he was Chair of English at Duke for three years.

12:00-1:30 – Seminar with Ian Baucom Room 5109
Please join us in discussing a portion of Prof. Baucom’s new book project in conversation with several readings which have shaped its development. The readings for this seminar are as follows (click on each to download):
1. Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “The Climate of History: Four Theses” in a 2009 issue of Critical Inquiry.
2. Ian Baucom, “The Human Shore: Postcolonial Studies in an Age of Natural Science”
3. The Introductory chapter of Tim Morton’s new book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World.
4. Ian Baucom, “History 4˚C: The Youngest Day” (which is his working introduction to his new project).

4:00-6:00 – Ian Baucom, “History 4˚C: Search for a Method” Room 9100 (Skylight Room)

“The current planetary crisis of climate change or global warming,” Dipesh Chakrabarty has recently argued, has effected a collapse of the long-standing division between human and natural history. Where it has been the enduring conviction of the historical profession that the proper study of history begins at precisely the point at which human life organizes and separates itself from animal, natural existence, the planet’s looming ecological catastrophe, Chakrabarty indicates, has made that distinction void. Human history, human culture, human society have now come to possess a truly geological force, a capacity not only to shape the local environments of forests, river-systems, and desert terrain, but to effect, catastrophically, the core future of the planet as we enter into the long era of what the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and other climate researchers have called the “anthropocene.” As scholars across the disciplines have increasingly begun to argue, addressing the deep time of the anthropocene (both its deep history and its deep future) implies a fundamental interrogation (or re-interrogation) of many of our core concepts (“nature,” “politics,” “sovereignty” and the “human” key among them). As the coherence and plasticity of those concepts—particularly of the human–come under renewed pressure so too are there allied shifts toward a range of posthumanist understanding of the “task” (or tasks”) of the humanities and, consequently, of the relation of the humanities to the life and other natural sciences.

In this talk I take up some of those challenges, particularly as they address the question of framing a critical method adequate to the “situation” of the anthropocene. In so doing, I will argue that despite its enormously rich considerations of the multi-scaled temporality of the anthropocene, Chakrabarty’s recent work also sometimes bends the time of climate linear in the progress toward catastrophe, thereby bypassing the full possibility of a multi-temporal ontology of the present that would include the persistence into the anthropocene of History 1 and 2. I suggest, therefore, that while drawing on his recent work, we need to continue in a search for method adequate to the situation of our time; a time that knots together (minimally) Histories 1, 2, and 3; a time that I am provisionally calling History 4˚.


This event is co-sponsored by the following entities at the CUNY Graduate Center: the Advanced Research Collaborative, the Center for the Humanities, IRADAC, the Caribbean Epistemologies seminar, the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, and the Committee on Globalization and Social Change.