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GSSC Seminar Series
06 December 2022


Zooming out: Peripheral Places and the Planetary Novel in Latin America

MESH Grassroots Work-in Progress Seminar 6.12.2022

Dr. Bieke Willem (University of Cologne)



Grasping the Anthropocene through the lens of the Humanities means not only being able to imagine scales of magnitude that go beyond human understanding or control (Thomas 2014, Heise 2019, Horn 2019), but also to conceptualize different and even incompatible scales simultaneously (Clark 2012). This talk will focus on the problem of scale in Latin American literature by analyzing contemporary novels whose peripheral settings signal the ruin of (agro-)industrial modernization and point to an exhaustion of the era of economic globalization. These novels move between a “sense of place” and a “sense of planet” (Heise 2008) by using strategies that stretch spatial boundaries. A recurring strategy in this regard is the literary adoption of a technique from digital cartography, the global zoom. By moving rapidly between the largest and smallest features of the Earth, these novels create a consciousness of the earth as planet.


Bieke Willem is Juniorprofessorin of Romance Literature at the University of Cologne. She obtained her PhD in Literature at Ghent University in Belgium (2014) and was appointed as postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Berkeley (2015-2016). From 2018 until 2021, she was Assistant Professor of Latin American literature and culture at the Department of Romance Studies and Classics at Stockholm University. She has published mainly on memory in (post)dictatorial Chilean literature, on space and affect in Latin American literature and film and on landscapes in fantastic literature. She is the author of El espacio narrativo en la novela chilena postdictatorial. Casas habitadas (BRILL, 2016). From July till October 2022, she participated in the CALAS think tank “The Anthropocene as multiple Crises: Latin American Perspectives”, at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico.