Thinking through Environments: Interview with Jessica Varner
From Moa Carlsson
This is a conversation with Dr Jessica Varner, in which we discuss her approaches to researching the ways in which synthetic building materials have transformed our environment. The conversation was recorded on the 18th of January 2021.
JESSICA VARNER is an architect, historian and activist whose work focuses on environmental, material and legal histories of architectural modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Formerly a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, Jessica is currently a Fellow of the University of Southern California Society of Fellows. Her publications include the book No More Play: Conversations on Urban Speculation in Los Angeles and Beyond with Michael Maltzan, and her PhD dissertation, “Chemical Desires: Dyes, Additives, Foams, and the Making of Architectural Modernity,” which was completed at MIT in 2020. Together with Meredith TenHoor, Varner is leading Toxins – a multi- and transdisciplinary project hosted by the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative. We invited Varner to find out more about how she combines research on the histories of the environment, science and technology, and architecture, with pedagogy and activism.
Interview Bibliography by Jessica Varner
Di Palma, Vittoria. Wasteland: A History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014.
Hoover, Elizabeth. The River Is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Liboiron, Max. Pollution is Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021.
Lippard, Lucy R. Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West. New York: The New Press, 2014.
LeManager, Stephanie. Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
McKittrick, Katherine. Dear Science and Other Stories. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021.
Murphy, Michelle. Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.
Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.
Varner, Jessica and Meredith TenHoor (co-organizers). Aggregate Toxics Bibliography. Accessed July 22, 2021. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1quP8qlK3VVA0oUbLatVVl-N1oPVrcj2Y51iDmVCpjuk/edit
Wiley, Sara. Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.
Please note that the views expressed by the interview subject are the personal views of the interviewee and not those of the University, the interviewers or the Series organisers.