After Matter: Rupture, Persistence, Survival Symposium

Kislak Center

6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

3420 Walnut Street

Philadelphia, PA 19104


This symposium explores the notion of afterlives, a term embodying interactions that trouble the neat linearity of past, present, and future. Afterlives speak to both continuities and discontinuities: legacies of the past and the anticipation of manifold futures in the constitution of the present. Examining afterlives through the themes of materiality, race, and colonial power, speakers will consider the potent vestiges of violence, toxicity, and waste in contemporary societies and environments and examine bodies as sites of decomposition, ancestral identity, and racial privilege. 

A program of the Wolf Humanities Center's 2017-18 Forum on Afterlives


9:00-9:30a | Registration and Breakfast

9:30-9:45a | Opening Remarks

9:45-11:15a | Keynote 
Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University 
(Respondent: Emily Wilson)

11:30a-1:00p | “Environmental Afterlives”

This panel will explore how environments register the legacies of power, violence, and toxicity. The panelists will explore the ways earlier power relations persist through infrastructure, spatial distribution, and the construction of distinct ideas about persistence, rupture, and time. The panelists will also consider the ways such material legacies have served as evidence of earlier inequalities.

Kate Brown, University of Maryland
Brahim El Guabli, Princeton University
Rahul Mukherjee, University of Pennsylvania

2:30-4:00p | "Embodied Afterlives”
After death, in life, and through metaphor, bodies evoke material relationships to intangible worlds. This panel follows bodies across multiple temporalities, including ancestral histories, lingering traumas, and genetic futures. It considers how certain bodies mark the limits of inclusion and the ways those exclusions overlap in complex ways with personhood. In doing so, panelists offer diverse case studies to explore the status of bodies as forms of truth-telling, environmental management, and social inquiry.

Zoe Crossland, Columbia University
Lyra Monteiro, Rutgers University
Ellen Stroud, Pennsylvania State University

4:15-5:15p | Open moderated discussion

5:15-6:30p | Reception

Cosponsored by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, the Departments of English; History; History and Sociology of Science; and the Programs in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory; Cinema and Media Studies.