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Environmental Humanities Symposium: Gregg Mitman

A symposium hosted by the College of Arts and Science on Environmental Humanities.  We’ve invited two speakers—Gregg Mitman, Founding Director of the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment at the University of Wisconsin, and Bethany Wiggin, Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania—to speak about their environmental humanities initiatives and talk with us about the past, present, and future of the environmental humanities.

Speaker 2-

Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an environmental historian, a historian of science and medicine, and a filmmaker. He is the author of three monographs:

He is currently working on a new project: America’s Rubber Empire: Science, Commerce, and Disease in the Making of Firestone Plantations Company.

As part of that project, he’s been collaborating on a fascinating film titled, A Film Never Made. At the heart of the film is a cache of film shot in Liberia by a 1926 Harvard scientific expedition sponsored by Firestone Plantations Company.  The unedited footage juxtaposes moving images of village chiefs, local life, and tribal customs with uncomfortable glimpses into forced labor and the massive clear-cutting of forests by Firestone to make way for a vast rubber plantation, displacing local people from their traditional lands.  Firestone’s arrival set a precedent for the slow erosion of land rights in Liberia. The historic footage is the core of the film, but the rest of it follows Emmanuel Urey, who was a Liberian student at the UW. Gregg and his collaborators accompany Emmanuel as he travels through Monrovia, showing Liberians the film and discovering the history of his country in the process.

We’ve brought him to the UO for this symposium because he is the founding director of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History and Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also organizes UW’s popular environmental film festival, Tales from Planet Earth.