Friday Lunch: Kirk B. Sides

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Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St. (Room Information Shared Upon Registration)
@ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Disruptive Ecologies: African Literature and the Environmental Humanities

This Friday Lunch talk will examine some of the ways in which African literatures have interacted with, and even prefigured, trends and turns in ecocriticism specifically and the environmental humanities more broadly. Reading a long history of environmental writing from the continent, the paper will complicate the ways in which ecological thinking in African literatures has often become conflated with the environmental aftermaths of formal decolonization and the postcolony. This talk will argue that African ecological writing, and hence an ecocritical approach to African literatures, is necessarily a deeply historical project, one that both reaches back, past the moment of formal political decolonization, while also gesturing forwards towards possible environmental futures. The talk will begin by arguing for an expanded historical timeline for thinking about the environment as an organizing trope in African literatures from at least the start of the twentieth century as a way to chart a genealogy of reading African Literatures as environmental literatures.

Please note: A catered lunch will be provided at this Friday Lunch event. Seats are limited and available on a first-come basis. To register, please send an email to with your name, title, or affiliation.

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Kirk B. Sides is an Assistant Professor in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA, Kirk was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Witwatersrand’s Institute for Social and Economic Research in Johannesburg, South Africa. A specialist in African environmental literatures and humanities, his current book manuscript, African Anthropocene: The Ecological Imaginary in African Literatures, explores the relationship between environmental and decolonial thinking in African literary and cultural production across the twentieth century. He has published articles on African literatures and the environment in the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, Safundi: Journal of South African and American Studies, Critical Philosophy of Race, and others. He also facilitates a series of workshops called “Anthropocene Storytelling”, which employs speculative fiction and poetry as pedagogical and creative methods for thinking about planetary change. Kirk was a Visiting Research Scholar in the Humanities Institute at The Pennsylvania State University, as well as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich.