On November 17th in Bagnani Hall, Diana Coole aims to challenge modern perceptions of materialism. This lecture is brought to you by the Elaine Stavro Distinguished Scholar in Theory, Politics, and Gender. Professor Coole is examining something that often goes overlooked despite its intrinsic value: dirt.
This lecture series that owes its name to one of Trent’s own distinguished scholars has brought to Trent such great minds as Wendy Brown in 2011 and Dr. Kimberly Hutchings in 2015. Professor Stavro has been a staple at Trent University since 1990 and currently teaches Political Imagination, Body Politics/Body in Politics, and Power and Resistance in the Political Studies Department. Her publications include “The Contribution of a Non-Rationalist Humanism to Feminist Theory” and “Towards a Posthumanist Feminism”.
The visiting professor, Diana Coole, is accomplished in her own right. She has released five books since 1992 and is a professor at Birkbeck University of London, UK. Most of her work discusses the Frankfurt School, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of critical theory, and has given the world thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Max Weber.
But what is materialism? Well, like most philosophy, it is a concept that remains out of reach to blue collar folk, up in an ivory tower constructed by bricks of 7 syllable words. Using Wikipedia to ascend the top of said tower is akin to using a larded ladder with slanted steps. This free lecture can be the chalk on the hands to give attendees a chance to get a grip on this concept.
Materialism is not concerned with the pseudo-spiritual nonsense of a guy like Descartes who asks questions about the nature of what it is to be a human. Materialism does not bother with inane statements such as “I think therefore I am”. Rather, materialism strives to address how we interact with the physical world around us and how this world informs our own sense of self.
The interrogation that you have with your Aunt Linda about why she owns three dehumidifiers in New Mexico, a place so dry that its greatest cultural export is a high school chemistry teacher, is rooted in materialism. Why does she have so many dehumidifiers? She owns them as a result of the relationship that she has built with consumption of consumer goods. “Consumer culture” is born out of our attachment to buying stuff that makes us feel happy. This is why it is so radical to lecture about the materialism of dirt. Coole is trying to transcend discussions of consumer materials by grounding her work in the earth. So go and check out the Dirt: A New Materialist Approach, this Thursday at 7pm in Bagnani Hall at Trail College.