Making Environmental Subjects on the Egyptian Nile | Jennifer Derr


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E408 | Colonialism and violence are frequently paired in studies of the modern Middle East, but environment and violence are less commonly paired. But in this episode, Jennifer Derr explains the indelible connection between the two in a conversation about her recent monograph The Lived Nile: Environment, Disease, and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt. According to Derr, the transformation of Egypt's economy under British rule was experienced as a form of violence for ordinary Egyptians. "The violence of colonial economy and specifically colonial labor was made manifest on the bodies of laborers." In our conversation, we explore the transformation of the Nile and its environment under colonialism and consider how these transformations changed the nature of disease in the region with damaging consequences for the workers in intimate contact with the new nature of the Nile. More at Jennifer L. Derr is an historian of science, medicine, political economy, and the environment in the modern Middle East. She is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Edna Bonhomme is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science where she is working on her book manuscript "Ports and Pestilence in Alexandria, Tripoli, and Tunis" which addresses the convergence of sanitary imperialism and traditional medicine during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to her book project, she is collaborating with Berlin–based artists and writers who are using decolonial methodologies, feminist practices and diachronic histories in order to upend uneven power dynamics in archives, pedagogy, and science. In addition to her academic interests, she writes for publications including but not limited to Africa is a Country, Contretemps, Der Freitag, Jacobin Magazine, Mada Masr, and Viewpoint Magazine. She has previously taught at Drexel University (2016, 2017), Humboldt University (2018), and Bard College Berlin (2019). CREDITS Episode No. 408 Release Date: 2 April 2019 Recording Location: Berlin, Germany Audio editing by Chris Gratien Music: Zé Trigueiros Bibliography courtesy of Jennifer Derr available at

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