Climates of Colonialism

Julia Lum, Scripps College, Claremont, CA, USA
Gabrielle Moser, OCAD University, Toronto, Canada

This session investigates how art and cultural production in the former British Empire has long charted the interdependent and co-constitutive logics of climate and colonialism. Examining a diverse range of media – including painting, video, architecture, public sculpture and photography – the papers consider how artistic treatments of environmental change can be located within overlapping and interconnected histories of acclimatisation, forced migration, land dispossession, resource extraction, deforestation and struggles for Indigenous sovereignty. Not only has climate been central to anthropological representations of racial differences in imperial ideologies – such as suppositions about which populations were ‘naturally suited’ to particular weather events, temperature ranges and climatic conditions – but colonial practices of extraction and commodification have radically altered ecologies under colonial rule. Following calls by Indigenous, Black, postcolonial and feminist scholars to extend the time frame of climate change beyond the Industrial Revolution, the presentations in this session imagine climate change not as a new event, but rather as ‘the continuation of practices of dispossession and genocide, coupled with a literal transformation of the environment, that have been at work for the last five hundred years’ (Davis and Todd 2017: 761). Taking up the rich cross-disciplinary discussion that has emerged around the Anthropocene, the session considers case studies in the Arabian Gulf Region, Australia, Guyana, Canada and the heart of the Empire itself.

Speakers

Making and Sensing Climate at Kew
Nicholas Robbins (Yale University)

Nineteenth-Century Climate Adaptation and the Architecture of Acclimatisation
Kathleen Davidson (The University of Sydney)

View from the Terracene
Sara Mameni (California Institute of the Arts)

Aubrey Williams and the Politics of Ecology in Guyana
Giulia Smith (Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford)

Fire
Alan McFetridge (Artist)

Water is Life: The sensual and affective politics of Rebecca Belmore's Fountain and Freeze
Elizabeth Went (University College London)
 

 

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