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Book award recognizes work on environmental justice, 'slow violence'

August 07, 2012

The Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University has named Rob Nixon, a highly regarded English scholar, the winner of its 2012 Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award for his work “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.”

The award recognizes and celebrates humanities faculty authors from ASU and around the United States and the substantial body of transdisciplinary humanistic research reflected in their publications.

Nixon, the Rachel Carson Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, will open this year’s Humanities Faculty Authors’ Reception with his discussion "Mind the Gap: Slow Violence and the Environmental Humanities,” which will is scheduled to take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 18, at the University Club on the Tempe campus. Event details will be released later this summer.

Nixon’s book has three main aims: first, to challenge conventional ways of thinking about violence; second, to dramatize the challenges facing environmental justice movements among the poor, particularly in the global South; and third, to celebrate the creativity and tenacity shown by writer-activists who have testified to the urgency of these environmental struggles.

“I felt that redefining violence was a critical first step,” Nixon says. “Most environmental crises – like climate chaos, toxic drift, oil spills, deforestation and the poisonous aftermaths of wars – are characterized by a slow-motion urgency. In an age that reveres speed and spectacle, how do we take seriously the forms of environmental slow violence that are deficient in instant drama but high in long-term catastrophic effects?

"My focus, then, is on the representational challenges posed by slow violence, the challenges of devising stories and images adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects. Such emergencies of the long term disproportionately jeopardize the livelihoods and life prospects of the global poor.”

“All power to the IHR for supporting transdisciplinary work in this way,” Nixon adds. “These are exciting times for scholars and writers who are open to exploring the borderlands between disciplines. That’s where much of the most energetic 21st thinking can – and will – be found.”

Past award winners include Prasad Boradkar, professor of industrial design at ASU, for “Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects;” Silvia Spitta, professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Dartmouth College, for “Misplaced Objects: Migrating Collections and Recollections in Europe and the Americas;” Claudia Sadowski-Smith, assistant professor of English at ASU, for “Border Fictions: Globalization, Empire, and Writing at the Boundaries of the United States;” and Marita Sturken, professor of media, culture, and communication and co-director of the Visual Culture program at New York University, for “Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch and Consumerism from Oklahoma to Ground Zero.”

The Institute for Humanities Research, a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, funds transdisciplinary research in the humanities.