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The Disjointed Temporality of Climate Change

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The Cultures of Climate Change at CRASSH announces its third event of Easter Term, a lecture by Karen Pinkus entitled “The Disjointed Temporality of Climate Change.” This lecture will be followed by discussion and a wine reception.

Abstract: This talk puts forward the idea that discourse around climate change in the public sphere is focused on decadal timescales for change and on the automobile. I use thinkers like Heidegger, Derrida, Stiegler and Agamben to undo the sort of certainty that we hear in the public realm about the individual consumer or “stakeholder” being able to make behavioral changes that will result in significant greenhouse gas reductions within decades. Instead, I argue that both the obsessive focus on the auto and the focus on greentech as consumer product deflect our attention from what is a true incommensurability between the timescale of fossil fuels and “human” time. It is only by “thinking otherwise”—beyond the consumer, beyond the time of common sense—that we could begin to address climate change in a meaningful way. In short, literary theory proves extremely useful in helping to think about these issues, precisely because it undoes a kind of commonsense certainty that we find in the public sphere—such as in Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.

Karen Pinkus is Professor of French and Italian and Comparative Literature at USC . She is currently working on the role of the humanities, and specifically literary theory, in confronting climate change. She argues that the humanities are crucial to the most basic thinking about what it might mean to “solve” the problems of greenhouse gas emissions.

This talk is part of the The Cultures of Climate Change series.

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