Coevality Lecture Series

Coevality: Global Ethics in a Time of Total Change 

Does the Framework Convention on Climate Change, affirmed by 195 nations in Paris on December 12, 2015, signal a turning point in our ability to work in the common interests of all sentient beings and of the worlds in which we live? In our closely connected, yet highly differentiated, rapidly expanding yet deeply inequitable, politically divided global (dis)order, can this spirit of coevality prevail? 

The Coevality Project takes the form of a graduate seminar and a series of public lectures and symposia to be offered this semester and this Fall (2016) by Terry Smith (Global Studies Faculty Fellow, University of Pittsburgh) and distinguished visitors, including contemporary art historian TJ Demos (Center for Creative Ecologies, University of California Santa Cruz), literary theorists Amy Elias (University of Tennessee) and Christian Moraru (University of North Carolina), and philosopher Peter Singer (Princeton).

Coevality Speaker Series Dates and Discussion Topics 


PETER SINGER LECTURE: "Ethics for One World" 


The most important issues we face today are global rather than national: climate change, economic globalization, extreme poverty, immigration and the responsibility to protect people from genocide and crimes against humanity, whatever country they may be in.  We need to challenge both the prudence and the ethics of those who put forward narrow nationalistic perspectives.  In the long run we cannot be secure and prosperous, or claim to be acting justly, if we fail to play our part in overcoming the world’s problems.  Professor Singer will discuss both the perils and the potentials inherent in globalization, and put forward an ethical approach to them. 



PETER SINGER & TERRY SMITH, Global Studies Faculty Fellow conversation: “Global Ethics in a Time of Total Change” 


Symposium 2: Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru, Planetarity: Reframing Global Coevalness 

Amy J. Elias (English, University of Tennessee) and Christian Moraru (American Literature and Critical Theory, University of North Carolina) are authors of The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the twenty-First Century (Northwestern, 2015). In the opening session, they will introduce the core concepts of the book, and in the following sessions each will present a major lecture on their current research. 

Session 1: The Planetary Turn, 1:00-2:00pm The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-First Century grew out of its editors’ sense that, during the past two decades or so, we have been witnessing a sea-change across a wide range of geopolitical, aesthetic, economic, and theoretical-philosophical areas and practices. Focusing primarily on the contemporary arts and their interpretation, the collection attends to the incremental onset of the “planetary” as the defining discursive matrix and analytic framework for this very palpable and epoch-making transformation. 

Session 2: Amy J. Elias: “The Temporality of Dialogue” 2:15-3:15pm What time does it take to interact meaningfully with another? In what time zone does empathy take place? How do the arts address these questions? In this paper I discuss dialogue as a temporal register. Predicated not on “understanding” the other nor on an easy and shallow sympathy, dialogue oscillates between communication and blockage, contestation and commiseration, but it nonetheless “moves us forward.” Amy J. Elias teaches and writes about arts and aesthetics of the post-1945 period, time and history studies, narrative theory, globalization/planetarity studies, and contemporary fiction. She was the principal founder of A.S.A.P.: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.  Her book Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction (2002) won the George and Barbara Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative, and she is currently completing a book “Dialogue at the End of the World: Art and the Commons,” about dialogue as an ethical and artistic practice across the arts after 1950. *For Prof. Elias’s introduction to her forthcoming anthology Time Studies Today (edited with Joel Burges), click here 

Session 3: Christian Moraru: Coevalness and Critical Chronography  3:30-4:30pm Focusing on post-Cold War American literature and culture, Moraru will ask what makes them “contemporary” and what it takes to do justice to this contemporaneity critically. Participating in what has been called the “spatial turn” in literary and cultural studies, his latest books have raised primarily issues of space: what time is it now in American culture? In answering, he points to the worrisome expansion of “monotemporality,” of “mean time” across U. S. discourses and cultural practices, as well as to writers’ attempts to break up this chronocultural monolith into contiguous, intersecting, discrepant yet rich temporalities, timelines, and histories. Christian Moraru specializes in contemporary American fiction, critical theory, as well as comparative literature with emphasis on history of ideas, postmodernism, and the relations between globalism and culture. His recent publications include Postcommunism, Postmodernism, and the Global Imagination (Columbia, 2009) and The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-First Century (Northwestern, 2015, with Amy J. Elias) and the monographs Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary (Michigan, 2011) and Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology (Michigan, 2015). Panel discussion moderated by Terry Smith 4:30-5:00pm Reception 5:00pm

THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 4:15-6:00 PM,


TJ DEMOS & TERRY SMITH, Global Climate Justice and World Art, a symposium “World Picturing by Contemporary Artists” (Smith); “Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today” (Demos) A panel with both speakers will follow. 6:00 PM Reception in Frick Fine Arts Cloister Terry Smith: World Picturing by Contemporary Artists (Global Studies Faculty Fellow Lecture II)

Away from the glare of headlines about record auction prices, but right there in plain sight is the fact that contemporary art has become a major way through which more and more people seek subtle, acute and truthful imaginings of the world in which we live: its daunting complexities, its divisive differences, and its enabling diversities. Artists and art collectives may be found among the many individuals, groups, and agencies that are tackling the issues caused by climate change, geopolitical chaos, governmental impotence, and the clash of fundamentalisms. This lecture will show how artistic world picturing is contributing towards the reshaping of our consciousness of planetarity. 

Terry Smith is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art, and Critical Theory at the European Graduate School. 

TJ Demos: Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today Addressing the current upswing of scientific and environmental arts and humanities-based attention in relation to the recent geological proposition that we have entered a new human-driven epoch called the Anthropocene, this lecture presents a critical overview of that thesis as well as its limitations. Looking at multiple examples of visual culture—including popular science websites, remote sensing and SatNav imagery, eco-activist mobilizations, and experimental artistic projects—it considers how the term proposes more than merely a description of objective geological periodization. Rather, I argue that the Anthropocene terminology works ideologically in support of neoliberalism’s financialization of nature, anthropocentrism’s political economy, and the endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred—but likely disastrous—method of approaching climate change. To democratize decisions about the world’s near future, we urgently need to subject the Anthropocene thesis to critical scrutiny and develop creative alternatives in the present. 

T.J. Demos is Professor of Art and Visual culture at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he is Director of the Center for Creative Ecologies. His most recent book is The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013, winner of the 2014 College Art Association Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism), which explores the relation of contemporary art— including practices from North America, Europe, and the Middle East—to the experience of social dislocation, political crisis, and economic inequality, where art figures in ways both critically analytical and creatively emancipating. 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 6:00-7:30 PM,


TERRY SMITH, lecture, “Our Present Contemporaneity: Divisive Difference and the Emergent Commons”

The Coevality Speaker Series is sponsored by the Global Studies Center, the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Humanities Center, and the Year of the Humanities Initiative the University of Pittsburgh.

Copyright 2018 | Global Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh