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Vital Entanglements: Bodies in the Age of the Anthropocene

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Vital Entanglements: Peterhouse Theory Group

2nd March, 17.45, The Parlour (G Staircase), Peterhouse

How should we think about the interrelation of human and non-human bodies in an Anthropocenic age? What tools can be used to chart the strange & vital overlaps, convergences, and gregarious cominglings between ourselves and our environments? In keeping with its MATERIALITY theme, the Peterhouse Theory Group presents an evening with Adam Bobbette, Simone Kotva, and David Whitley, chaired by Hunter Dukes. As usual, wine and soft drinks will be served.

Adam Bobbette (Faculty of Geography) examines the intersections of human and non-human natures in vulnerable, unpredictable and volatile contexts. His current research looks at the deep entanglements between people and active volcanoes. He is interested in volcanoes as socio-material agents intersectionally constituted by anthropogenic forces and material vitality. This is focused through a detailed case study of an active urbanised volcano in Central Java seen through the lens of its gatekeepers, liminal figures who mediate between the materiality of the volcano and the diverse communities that reside on it. He follows their practices, controversies and how they build and maintain fragile orders. He is particularly concerned with how plural worlds can be fostered and cared for amidst the urgencies spurred by environmental uncertainty (http://www.geog.cam.ac.uk/people/bobbette).

Simone Kotva (Faculty of Divinity) researches philosophies of life, primarily in nineteenth-century continental thought, and their rapprochement with contemporary revivals of vitalism, Naturphilosophie and, most recently, environmental criticism. Her doctoral dissertation discovered and explored the connections between vitalism, natural philosophy and Stoicism which transpire in the school of French philosophy known as ‘spiritualism’, particularly in the work of Félix Ravaisson, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Émile Chartier (Alain) and Simone Weil. Her current research examines the critical reception of vitalism and natural philosophy in Victorian and Edwardian ‘country writing’, focussing on Richard Jefferies, W. H. Hudson and Edward Thomas. This research forms part of a larger investigation into the varieties of field writing employed in historical but also contemporary observations of the environment, in the UK and abroad, and the nascent spiritual idioms evinced in the styles adopted in these forms of writing (https://www.emma.cam.ac.uk/contact/fellows/?id=394).

David Whitley (Faculty of Education) focuses primarily on poetry, film, environmental education, and children’s literature. A long-term goal of David Whitley’s research has been to open up new, interdisciplinary perspectives on the way art, especially poetry and film, enables imaginative connections to be forged between human beings (particularly children) and the natural world. This represents a distinctive contribution to the emerging field of ecocriticism, with links to environmental education. Recently, he has been involved with an international project investigating children’s sense of place and connection to the environment. This has been a very productive collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology and the Faculty of Education, with the British context focused on primary schools in the East Anglian area (http://cire.group.cam.ac.uk/PathwaysProject).

This talk is part of the Peterhouse Theory Group series.

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