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Environments and Societies Colloquium with Professor Gregg Mitman

Oct 27, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM

STS Conference Room (SSH Building 1246)

This two-part event is presented by the Environments and Societies Colloquium and co-sponsored by STS. To receive a copy of the pre-circulated readings, contact Katherine Buse at kebuse@ucdavis.edu.

Gregg Mitman is an environmental historian, a historian of science and film, and also a filmmaker. After watching his documentary The Land Beneath Our Feet on Thursday, this Friday colloquium will follow a Food-for-Thought-style format. The film screening and the colloquium both explore themes related to Mitman's forthcoming book, The World that Firestone Built: Capitalism, American Empire, and the Forgotten Promise of Liberia. Mitman develops a plantationocene framework that links the history of American capitalism in Liberia to contemporary land conflicts in the country.

  • Thursday 10/26, 4-6 pm, Wright Hall Lab A: film screening of "The Land Beneath Our Feet," dir. Greg Mitman and Sarita Siegel.
  • Friday 10/27, 12-2 pm, STS Conference Room: Food-for-Thought-style discussion of two short proposals (one for Mitman's book and the other for a Mellon Sawyer Seminar) that discuss the theoretical and historical significance of his research about American capitalism in Liberia.

Dr. Mitman will present two short proposals based on his research about American capitalism in Liberia. In a Mellon Sawyer seminar proposal titled, "Interrogating the Plantationocene," Mitman suggests that rather than calling our current era the anthropocene–"a new geological epoch defined by homo sapiens influence upon the biological systems of the entire planet"–a more apt designation would be the plantationocene, a term that centers plantations and their ecological relations to the rise and growth of global capitalism. In shifting our attention from the concept of the anthropocene to that of the plantationocene, Mitman asks us to reconsider our fundamental ideas about the relationship of human corporeality to nature, labor, capital, and the state.

This short seminar proposal sets the context for Dr. Mitman's second short paper, which is the proposal for his forthcoming book, The World that Firestone Built: Capitalism, American Empire, and the Forgotten Promise of Liberia. The World that Firestone Built tells the story of American capitalism in Liberia within the plantationocene framework. It is also a sweeping story of ecology and disease, of commerce and science, of racial politics and political maneuvering. Turning a bright light on the intimate ties between American science, medicine, and business, it is the story of how American capitalism and corporate empire–driven by the demand for resources and profits enshrouded in a facade of benevolence–extracted enormous value for American interests from a struggling black republic in Africa while leaving the Liberian people to pay the price. Click here to explore Mitman's interactive website about capitalism in Liberia. 

You can read Dr. Mitman's full bio here.

  • Papers: "Interrogating the Plantationocene" and "The World that Firestone Built: Capitalism, American Empire, and the Forgotten Promise of Liberia."
  • Faculty Commentator: Dr. Corrie Decker, History, UC Davis
  • Graduate Student Commentator: Sean Gallagher, History, UC Davis