Books in the Biosphere: Lecture by Isabel Hofmeyr

Isabel Hofmeyr delivered the 24th B. N. Ganguli Memorial Lecture on ‘Books in the Biosphere: Print Culture in the Anthropocene’. It was chaired by Ravi Sundaram.


B. N. Ganguli Memorial Lectures are held in memory of the distinguished economist Professor B. N. Ganguli, former Chairman, CSDS Board of Governors. Earlier speakers in the series include Dipesh Chakrabarty, Claudio Lomnitz, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Sari Nusseibeh, Leela Gandhi, Lila Abu-Lughod, Francesca Orsini and Janaki Nair.

This year’s lecture will be delivered by Isabel Hofmeyr.

Like disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, studies of print media and book history are grappling with how to address the monumental challenges of the Anthropocene. How does one put together the dry technology of the book with floods and rising sea levels? The speaker builds on her recent book Dockside Reading, to relocate print culture in an ecosystem of plants, animals, minerals, water, soil and air – or in a word, the biosphere. The lecture explores these themes through three cases: Books in the Elements, Insects and Colonial Archives and Print, Plants and African Healers. 

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand and was Global Distinguished Professor at New York University from 2013 to 2022. Recent publications include Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House (2022) and a co-edited special issue on “Reading for Water” in Interventions 24 (3) 2022.

Ravi Sundaram is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

Tuesday, 5 December 2023, 5 pm, Seminar Room and Zoom