Urban Life in the Era of Climate Change

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 - 5:00pm6:30pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Urban Life in the Era of Climate Change

Ashley Dawson

Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities, Princeton Environmental Institute

Daniel Aldana Cohen

Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Copresented by Wolf Humanities Center and Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.


Ashley Dawson, author of Extinction: A Radical History, will speak about his newest book, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change. Penn Sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen, director of the Superstorm Research Lab and co-host of the climate politics podcast Hot & Bothered, will provide a response and conduct a conversation with Dawson about the environmental impacts of urbanization and gentrification, the increasing menace of urban flooding, and the emerging urban movements fighting for better forms of city living.

Book signing to follow.


Ashley Dawson is currently Professor of English at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), and Chairperson of the English Department at the College of Staten Island/CUNY. His research in the fields of cultural studies, environmental humanities, and postcolonial studies has lead to the publication of two major monographs- Mongrel Nation: Diaspora Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain (University of Michigan Press, 2007) and The Routledge Concise History of Twentieth-Century British Literature (2013).

The first of these, Mongrel Nation, surveys the history of the United Kingdom’s African, Asian, and Caribbean populations from 1948 to the present, working at the juncture of cultural studies, literary criticism, and postcolonial theory. Mongrel Nation examines popular culture and explores topics such as the nexus of race and gender, the growth of transnational politics, and the clash between first- and second-generation immigrants.Dawson’s second monograph applies this postcolonial lens to literature written in Britain across the twentieth century, arguing that the imperial metropole became a key node in transnational networks of radical intellectuals and artists from Britain’s colonies Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Dawson’s interest in cultural development in urban settings includes the experience and literature of migration, including movement from colonial and postcolonial nations to the former imperial center (Britain in particular) and from rural areas to mega-cities of the global South such as Lagos and Mumbai. His latest book, Extreme Cities, explores climate change, considering the impact of cities as the major contributors to the increase of carbon in the atmosphere.

Dawson’s work has been published in journals such as African Studies Review, Atlantic Studies, Cultural Critique, Interventions, Jouvert, New Formations, Postcolonial Studies, Postmodern Culture, Screen, Small Axe, South Atlantic Quarterly, Social Text, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.

Daniel Aldana Cohen’s research explores the interplay of climate politics and social movement protest in global cities, especially São Paulo, New York, and London. Cohen began his career as a writer and editor as an undergraduate at McGill in Montreal. He now uses his skills as a journalist to explore climate change broadly.

In an article about the politics of a climate-linked drought in São Paulo, The Rationed City, he argues for a closer focus on the links between housing and climate politics, by showing how housing and land use mediate water access, and water-oriented political mobilization, during a drought. In a book chapter, also about São Paulo, called The Other Low-Carbon Protagonists, he advances a new, encompassing framework for understanding urban ecological politics, and show how housing movements can slow or advance low-carbon policy even without speaking (or thinking) in terms of carbon.

Cohen employs research methods including comprehensive carbon-footprint analysis, coordinating that analysis with other approaches to socio-spatial segregation. To that end, he has founded the Socio-Spatial Carbon Collaborative, or (SC)2; more details soon.

Cohen lives in Philadelphia, and is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. With Kate Aronoff, he is the co-host of Hot & Bothered, a podcast on climate politics hosted by Dissent magazine. More specifically, he investigates the intersections of climate change, inequalities of race and social class, and the political projects of both elites and social movements in urban spaces, with a focus on global cities of the North and South.

Event is free and open to the public.
Pre-registration requested.