Prof. Dr. Miriam Strube (Universität Paderborn): "'When you're small, you gotta fix what you can': Overconsumption and Ecojustice in Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Tuesday, 09.07.2019, 6:15-7:45 p.m., U9/01.11

A bitter (and short-lived) gift from Hurricane Katrina was to refocus America's attention on the enduring legacy of racial segregation and poverty in the US. Early cries that "the storm didn't discriminate" were soon discredited by statistics showing that the storm's impacts weighed much more heavily upon racial minorities and the poor. The prize-winning 2012 feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild, a magic-realist fable shot in reaction to Hurricane Katrina, is an attempt to turn to environmental racism, to overconsumption and to the existence of communities living literally on the margins and on the recycled objects thrown away by main­stream society.

In her analysis, Prof. Strube will argue that the film presents an alternative, if not an uncomplicated one, to the capitalist principles of production and mass consumption that lead to an anthropogenic ecocrisis. The film criticized what has been called institutionalized overconsumption, an overconsumption built into the very fabric of mainstream culture. And it dramatizes ecojustice according to which resistance against the destruction of the environment means resistance against the social and political marginalization of oppressed groups. This kind of environmental justice, therefore, does not only fight against environmental racism, but also directs attention to the social and environmental habits of anthropocentrism.

Miriam Strube is Professor of American Studies at Paderborn University. She is author of Subjekte des Begehrens: Zur sexuellen Selbstbestimmung der Frau in Literatur, Musik und visueller Kultur and co-editor of Revisiting Pragmatism: William James in the New Millennium as well as Pragmatism’s Promise. In her current scholarship and teaching, including a translation and edition of Cornel West’s work, she focuses on social justice and radical democracy. She has received scholarships for Columbia University, Princeton and Harvard University, and Tel Aviv University.