On Wednesday, April 12, UC Davis faculty members James Housefield and Diana K. Davis will discuss their recently published books as part of the DHI Book Chat series held from noon to 1 in Voorhies 228. Conceived as an informal and intimate forum to share the collective work of our faculty, the lunchtime chats welcome students, faculty and staff to engage in a lively conversation about diverse topics that range, as in this case, from environmental change to modern art and popular science.
Housefield, associate professor of Design, will discuss his new book Playing with Earth and Sky: Astronomy, Geography and the Art of Marcel Duchamp that explores the significance of astronomy, geography, and aviation in the work of artist Marcel Duchamp.
Duchamp transformed modern art by emphasizing experiences rather than art objects, and Housefield examines the ways in which popular science, including museums and planetariums, influenced Duchamp’s unique, experiential 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.
Davis is a professor in the History Department and will discuss her recent book The Arid Lands: History Power, Knowledge. In The Arid Lands, Davis argues that estimates of desertification have been significantly exaggerated and 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. The Arid Lands expands on themes from Davis’s first book, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa, which won the 2008 George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in Environmental History, by framing approaches to dry lands ecology in a transatlantic and imperial context.
–Kaleb Knoblauch, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral student in the Department of History