INVITE | Heated Conversations by Louise Green | 27 Sept | 6pm (Johannesburg time)

Wednesday, 27 September, 2023 - 18:00

You are warmly invited to the next session of WiSER’s online seminar series

Heated Conversations

Louise Green will speak on
Unsettling the Background: Realism in the age of Environmental crisis

Click here for paper 

Photographers, writers and filmmakers who choose to confront the current planetary environmental crisis face the challenge of representing not only the familiar stories of human activities and dramas but also something new – the overlooked ground or the material substrate of the world. In doing so they work against traditions of representation in which human figures have tended to be the centre of representational practices. What lay outside these human dramas was relegated to the background. This paper is part of a larger project I am currently working on that explores this background. I propose a method of close reading of realist backgrounds as a means of engaging with the materiality of the world at this moment when its physical substance has become precarious matter. The material surface of the earth, its ground, is rapidly being emptied out, broken apart and overwhelmed by the ongoing operations of short-term, profit-driven capitalism. In this paper, I outline a series of concepts that might serve as co-ordinates for mapping this overlooked terrain, and then explore what insights they might yield in the reading of three texts: Kevin Ochieng Onyango’s photograph ‘The Last Breath’(2021), Henrietta Rose-Innes short story ‘Poison’(2007) and Alexander Abaturov’s documentary Paradise (2022).

Louise Green is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.  She is interested in critical theory, studies in modernity and globalization and tracing the elusive, mobile and diverse formations of value in late capitalist society. Her research proposes Africa as an important site for a philosophical engagement with the universalising impulse that marks contemporary narratives of environmental crisis. She is the author of Fragments from the History of Loss: The Nature Industry and the Postcolony (2020).

Wednesday, 27th September 2023
6pm (Johannesburg time)
Register here:

Heated Conversations  is new seminar series convened by Isabel Hofmeyr and Sarah Nuttall

        As global warming produces rising seas, falling dam levels and excessive droughts, generating new levels of multi-crisis in the world-now, so too are our conversations and discourses heating up in multiple ways. This seminar series takes up these questions of anthropogenic escalation and pedagogical shifts of gear. It does so in a context in which strengthening Southern bodies of knowledge is ever more crucial to engaging collectively with and comprehending these complex new rubrics and material dimensions. A forum broadly dedicated to the literary and cultural humanities, the seminar is hospitably open to wide participation from as many parts of the world as possible and will invite speakers to offer generative interventions for discussion and debate. 

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor Emeritus at Wits University; Sarah Nuttall is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at WiSER, Wits.


WISER Research Theme: