EVENT: Into the Desert: Questions of Coloniality and Toxicity. Online lecture series

2020 Preston H. Thomas Memorial Lectures

Deserts are not empty as they have long been seen and represented. Deserts —both hot and cold—have often served to search, extract, and transport various natural resources, such as oil and gas, as well as to design and build new cities, infrastructures, tourist complexes, farming systems, solar power plants, climate, and aerospace research centers, chemical weapons testing complexes, nuclear weapon research centers, and testing sites, and other settlements. How were these designs managed and implemented? What were their impacts on nomadic, semi-nomadic, and sedentary populations and their environments? To what extent did these deserts’ transformations influence the politico-economic assets of the governments in question? The Fall 2020 Preston H. Thomas Memorial Symposium will explore the ways in which politicians, scientists, and architects developed, exploited, colonized, transformed, urbanized, militarized, or polluted the underground or overground territories of a number of deserts in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The symposium will feature a series of virtual lectures convened by Assistant Professor of the History of Architecture and Urban Development Samia Henniwho is working on a book project on French nuclear testing sites and military bases in the Sahara Desert. Occurring weekly, scholars, curators, artists, and architects will each approach the topic from a different perspective and discuss one of their current research projects. The aim of the series is to offer a multiplicity of readings of the desert. Each speaker has thirty minutes to introduce the spatial possibilities or limitations of the desert she or he is studying. Taken all together, the lectures stage an intersectional understanding of the spaces and places of the desert.

The full list of speakers and the registration links are available at the series webpage.

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