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Humanities Institute

DHI Book Chat: James Housefield & Diana K. Davis

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DHI Book Chat: James Housefield & Diana K. Davis
April 12, 2017 12:00 pm
April 12, 2017 1:00 pm
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Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Location: 228 Voorhies

James Housefield, Associate Professor of Design at UC Davis, presents his book Playing with Earth and Sky: Astronomy, Geography, and the Art of Marcel Duchamp.

Diana K. Davis, Professor of History at UC Davis, presents her book The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge.9781611689570

Playing with Earth and Sky reveals the significance astronomy, geography, and aviation had for Marcel Duchamp—widely regarded as the most influential artist of the past fifty years. Duchamp transformed modern art by abandoning unique art objects in favor of experiences that could be both embodied and cerebral. This illuminating study offers new interpretations of Duchamp’s momentous works, from readymades to the early performance art of shaving a comet in his hair. It demonstrates how the immersive spaces and narrative environments of popular science, from museums to the modern planetarium, prepared paths for Duchamp’s nonretinal art. By situating Duchamp’s career within the transatlantic cultural contexts of Dadaism and Surrealism, this book enriches contemporary debates about the historical relationship between art and science.

In The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge, Diana Davis argues that estimates of desertification have been significantly exaggeratedand that deserts and drylands—which constitute about 41% of the earth’s landmass—are actually resilient and biodiverse environments in which a great many indigenous people have long lived sustainably. Meanwhile, contemporary arid lands development programs and anti-desertification efforts have met with little success. As Davis explains, these environments are not governed by the equilibrium ecological dynamics that apply in most other regions.

9780262034524_0Davis shows that our notion of the arid lands as wastelands derives largely from politically motivated Anglo-European colonial assumptions that these regions had been laid waste by “traditional” uses of the land. Unfortunately, such assumptions still frequently inform policy. Drawing on political ecology and environmental history, Davis traces changes in our understanding of deserts, from the benign views of the classical era to Christian associations of the desert with sinful activities to later (neo)colonial assumptions of destruction. She further explains how our thinking about deserts is problematically related to our conceptions of forests and desiccation. Davis concludes that a new understanding of the arid lands as healthy, natural, but variable ecosystems that do not necessarily need improvement or development will facilitate a more sustainable future for the world’s magnificent drylands.

About Book Chats: The UC Davis Humanities Institute presents a lunchtime series celebrating the intellectual and artistic endeavors of UC Davis faculty. Book Chats feature a faculty member presenting a recently completed publication, performance, or recording. Through the series we aim to highlight the breadth and depth of our extraordinary collective work.

This event is sponsored by UC Davis Humanities Institute

For more information please contact: Becky Wilson, rjwilson@ucdavis.edu

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