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Jennifer Wenzel: Between Petro-Magic and the Pedestrian

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Examining the failure of the imagination in not reckoning with the transition from muscular energy to mineral energy.

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In this talk, Jennifer Wenzel suggests that the impasse of the present is determined not only by petro-magic—fairy-tale promises of wealth without work—but also by a failure of the imagination in not reckoning with the transition from muscular energy to mineral energy. Professor Wenzel looks beyond portrayals of oil extraction in literature from the Niger Delta—the focus of her previous work—to examine the broader role of petro-magic in the fossil-fueled imaginary and the lived experience of hydrocarbon modernity. Petro-magic is effectively disenchanted when the make-believe world of the fossil fuel economy is normalized, rebalancing energy and benefits. She reflects upon "the pedestrian," both in terms of the ordinary inertia of taking-magic-for-granted and in terms of an alternative embodied politics of walking. Can we chip away at the impasse one step at a time?

About the Speakers

Jennifer Wenzel is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University.

Moderated by Sarah Dimick, Assistant Professor of English, Harvard University.

About the Series

The Environment Forum at the Mahindra Center is convened by Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Harvard University and Sarah Dimick, Assistant Professor of English​​​​​​​, Harvard University.​​​​​​​

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Organizer Mahindra Humanities Center

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The Mahindra Humanities Center is a crossroads for interdisciplinary discussions among Harvard faculty, faculty from other area institutions, graduate students, undergraduates, and the public. It sponsors lectures, panels, readings, conferences, workshops, and seminars on a wide range of topics.

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