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November 17, 2021

Lecture: Elina Staikou

Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts (IDSVA)

Elina Staikou, Biodegradables. Photograph.

The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is proud to host the second part of the year-long symposium: On the Anthropocene: Either/Or. Launched in spring 2021, with a series of lectures by renowned theorists and philosophers, the symposium addresses the role of art and philosophy in relation to ecology, climate change, co-existence, and sustainability as an existential urgency of our times.

The third lecture of the fall 2021 series, Elina Staikou’s "Thinking the Nitrogen Anthropocene” will be held on Saturday, November 27 (12–2pm EDT). The lecture is free and open to the public. Register here.

When we think of the Anthropocene we associate it with carbon dioxide greenhouse emissions and the environmental damage they cause. We have known for a long time, however, that one of the main driving causes of environmental disaster is the large and ever expanding scale of industrialized agriculture and the global food system it supports. The key ingredient for the ‘success’ of experiments such as the ‘green revolution’ after WWII is as ambivalent now as it was in its inception. It involved the extension of the artificial fixation and subsequent commercialization of nitrogen – through the so-called Haber-Bosch process – from making bombs and explosives to the production of chemicals designed to intensify farming practices and boost agricultural production. It can be argued that many of us would never have been born without this major shift in agriculture that led to the explosion of the human population on this planet. At the same time, it is becoming clear that this is one of the leading causes of what could be called the ‘Nitrogen Anthropocene’ that is now posing a major existential threat to humanity. Thinking through its risks and imperatives, necessarily means working with soils and all their living and nonliving entanglements. This lecture will revisit Jacques Derrida’s ethical injunction of ‘eating well’ but setting it within the context of the ‘soil crisis’ and of recent philosophical debates in biology and geology. The lecture will situate Donna Haraway and Thomas Nail’s ethics of compost within a broader critique of the ‘Nitrogen Anthropocene.’

Elina Staikou is a Lecturer in Modern Liberal Arts at Winchester University, and the author of Deconstruction at Home: Metaphors of Travel and Writing. Staikou also publishes articles and gives talks on contemporary philosophy, literature, biomedicine, migration, and hospitality. She lives between the UK and Athens, Greece.

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