Book Talk | Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
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NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to a book talk for Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains featuring the author Lucas Bessire in conversation with Julie Livingston and moderated by Caitlin Zaloom.
The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.
Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.
Lucas Bessire is an American writer, filmmaker and anthropologist. His work explores the social worlds created along extractive frontiers across the Americas. Author of Behold the Black Caiman: a Chronicle of Ayoreo Life (University of Chicago Press), he is currently associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. Running Out is his most recent book.
Julie Livingston is Silver Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and of History at New York University. She is interested in the body as a moral condition and mode of experience, taxonomies and the relations that challenge them, African thought and political and moral imagination; relations between species, and the environmental and public health consequences of capitalism and economic growth. Livingston was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; she has been an invited fellow and co-director of a research group at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and will be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in spring semester 2022. She is the author of Self-devouring Growth: a Planetary Parable told from Southern Africa (Duke University Press, 2019), Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic (Duke University Press, 2012), Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana (Indiana University Press, 2005). A member of the Social Text collective, she is co-editor of two special issues of Social Text: Collateral Afterworlds (co-edited with Zoe Wool) and Interspecies (co-edited with Jasbir Puar). She is a member of the NYU Prison Education Program Research Collective https://wp.nyu.edu/nyu_debt_project/ and is currently co-writing (with Andrew Ross) a book on the relationship between cars, debt, and incarceration as part of this project.
Caitlin Zaloom is a professor of Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University who studies the cultural dimensions of finance, technology, urbanism, and economic life. Her latest book, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost, explores how the financial pressures of paying for college affect middle-class families. Zaloom is also author of Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London, co-editor of the recent volume Antidemocracy in America and the forthcoming The Long Year: A 2020 Reader, and founding editor of the Public Books, which was a 2021 finalist for a National Magazine Award. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and has been featured in The New York Review of Books,TheNew York Times, The Atlantic,and The Chronicle of Higher Education among others.