What if our idea of a “habitable” world has actually been shaped by ancient beliefs, complex colonial structures and the Cold War? Historian of science Luis Campos laid out an overview of historic understandings and assumptions about “new worlds” during an engaging Humanities Now conversation Feb. 24 in Farnsworth Pavilion.
Campos, who recently joined Rice as the Baker College Chair in the History of Science, Technology and Innovation, received a warm welcome on a blustery day from Rice faculty and students alike, who enjoyed box lunches during the presentation.
“These Humanities Now conversations are intended to be a way to learn more about how what you do within the humanities connects to very real issues, questions and controversies taking place in the world around you,” said history professor Fay Yarbrough, associate dean of humanities, who introduced Campos.
What humans have considered a “habitable” world has evolved as we have, especially as modern-day humans contemplate what parts of the earth will continue to be habitable in the face of rapid climate change — to say nothing of our human contemplations of potentially habitable planets in galaxies far beyond our own.
“Today we're concerned about our ability to breathe in many registers: air pollution, climate change, racial justice and the pandemic,” Campos said. “I want to weave these things together today in this talk to think about what it means to have a habitable world, to be at home in our world and to think of a planet as a place where we can thrive.”
The next two Humanities Now conversations will also feature new humanities faculty: Sidney Lu, the Gragg Associate Professor of Transnational Asian Studies, will speak March 24 about the global history of Japanese rice farming in Texas. Olivia Young, assistant professor of art history and a scholar of African diasporic art, will speak April 14. Both conversations will be webinars. (Photo by Katharine Shilcutt)