Gregg Mitman: “Forgotten Paths of Empire”

Join Gregg Mitman as he follows Richard Pearson Strong’s 1926 journey of an eight-member scientific team on a four-month long biological and medical survey of the interior region of Liberia, an expedition that was thoroughly entangled in the material relationships —transportation infrastructure, labor regimes, and commodity production—being erected by the Firestone Plantations Company in Liberia to secure a viable rubber supply for the United States. While Firestone’s continued presence in that country is one lasting legacy of the expedition, so too is the motion picture record the expedition left behind.

This talk follows the forgotten paths of empire that led to widespread economic, environmental, and cultural change in the West African republic. In doing so, Mitman highlights the circulation of knowledge, commodities, and microbes that brought ecological and evolutionary understandings of disease into being. He also suggests how we might take the imperial debris of a scientific expedition produced in the service of capital and make something new of its ruins.

Mitman is Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and teacher, whose interests span the history of science, medicine, and the environment in the United States and the world, and reflect a commitment to environmental and social justice. He is the founding director of the Nelson Institute€’s Center for Culture, History and Environment, and is also past president of the American Society for Environmental History.

Sponsored by the Alfred E. Golz Memorial Lecture.

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