Book Talks in Medical Humanities: Heather Davis’s Plastic Matter
Plastic Matter traces plastic’s relations to geology, media, biology, and race to show how matter itself has come to be understood as pliable, disposable, and consumable. Davis charts these relations to matter by mapping the queer multispecies relationships between humans and plastic-eating bacteria and analyzing photography that documents the racialized environmental violence of plastic production. In so doing, Davis provokes readers to reexamine their relationships to matter and life in light of plastic’s saturation.
About the Author
Heather Davis is an assistant professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York whose work draws on feminist and queer theory to examine ecology, materiality, and contemporary art in the context of settler colonialism. Her most recent book, Plastic Matter (Duke University Press, 2022), explores the transformation of geology, media, and bodies in light of plastic’s saturation. Davis is a member of the Synthetic Collective, an interdisciplinary team of scientists, humanities scholars, and artists who investigate and make visible plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. She was the co-curator of Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials (on view at the Palmer Museum of Art, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Smith College and the Chazen Museum of Art, 2018-2020). Her writing has appeared in e-flux, Third Text, Afterall, Canadian Art, PhiloSOPHIA, and Camera Obscura, numerous edited books and catalogues, and has been translated into Croatian, Slovak, Korean, French, and Chinese.
Jennifer Wenzel is jointly appointed in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. Her book, Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond, published by Chicago and KwaZulu-Natal in 2009, was awarded Honorable Mention for the Perkins Prize by the International Society for the Study of Narrative.
Leah Aronowsky is a historian of modern science and the environment, primarily in the twentieth-century United States. She received a PhD in History of Science from Harvard University in 2018. Her research explores the intersections of science, capitalism, and the environment in the history of planetary-scale environmental knowledge. She is currently writing a book on the history of the environmental sciences in the context of the emergent environmental regulatory state and the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s. She has been a fellow in the Society of Fellows since 2020.
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