Perishability Fatigue

Forays Into Environmental Loss and Decay

Vincent Bruyere

Columbia University Press

Perishability Fatigue

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Pub Date: September 2018

ISBN: 9780231188593

184 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£20.00

Pub Date: September 2018

ISBN: 9780231188586

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£58.00

Pub Date: September 2018

ISBN: 9780231547949

184 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $24.99£20.00

Perishability Fatigue

Forays Into Environmental Loss and Decay

Vincent Bruyere

Columbia University Press

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault project is an arctic archive designed to preserve the world’s agricultural biodiversity. What do it and other novel forms of storage tell us about our relationship to the future in a time of resource depletion and extinction scenarios? In this innovative book, Vincent Bruyere offers an invitation to look at the present we live in through a fresh lens: the difference between storage and burial in the age of sustainability science.

Perishability Fatigue considers questions of permanence and the potentiality of retrieval, noting the tensions within our collective sense of time and finitude. Bruyere reflects on the nature and significance of perishability, asking what it means to have one’s sense of temporality engendered by seed banks and frozen embryo storage, genetically modified organisms and the “de-extinction” of species, nuclear-waste repositories, oncology, and palliative care. He draws attention to the scripts and scenarios that mediate our relations to loss and decay, preservation and conservation, emphasizing the inequalities implicit in technologies of perishability, which promise continuity in the future to some while refusing it to others. A highly interdisciplinary study, Perishability Fatigue reframes the environmental humanities and humanistic inquiry into sustainability science by developing a new language to commemorate fatigue and transience in a culture of preparedness and survival.
Perishability Fatigue is a wondrous and perceptive exploration of the preserved, the frozen, and the suspended. The book is a still life composed of ideas and objects staged to create an image not of what life is but where and in what time we find its concepts––a beautiful image with which to think life as it withers, as it is held. Todd Meyers, New York University-Shanghai
Perishability Fatigue is unquestionably one of the most original works I have encountered in the broader field of environmental humanities: a hallucinatory journey through a cabinet of (grotesque) curiosities, a hoarding of images and ideas with jolting leaps between centuries within a single paragraph. Bruyere also touches on issues central to medical humanities and disability studies, and offers a uniquely erudite perspective—historical, multidisciplinary, and generous. Karen Pinkus, Cornell University
Perishability Fatigue is erudite, playful, brave, and accessible: a remarkable contribution to science studies, the health humanities, and literary and cultural studies. Tacking back and forth between contemporary scientific and biomedical sites and touchstone works of literature, Vincent Bruyere illuminates the exhaustion of the present. He plumbs its origin in our constant awareness of our vulnerability—our perishability—which forces us to manage risk, guard against loss, and shore up security. Read this for the audacious readings of works of literature ranging from Ovid and Rabelais to Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Read this for acute analyses of hedges against loss like the Svalbard Seed Storage Vault, the Flavr Savr Tomato, and the Nuclear Waste Storage Vaults. Read this, indeed, to cheer yourself up with the zest of his intellect and his ability to make sense of our moment. But read this! Susan M. Squier, author of Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as Metaphor
'Don’t not open this book! You will never tire of it'—In the spirit of those fairy tale warnings, whose vagaries of reception Vincent Bruyère teaches us to remember, I am tempted to proclaim this of a book that will change how we understand the contemporary status of the perishable and exhausted in a world that blurs the difference between burial for all time and storage for some future date. Perishability Fatigue opens a slender path from the Ovidian story of Myrrha—transformed into a tree at the point of giving birth—to contemporary cases of stopped time, immobilized fertility, destructive preservation, and disturbed, bracketed or negated futurity, from seed banks to frozen embryos, from survivors of stroke to biomedical remnants, from the interminable time of nuclear waste to the short meantime of palliative care. In the elegance with which he weaves together contemporary examples with classical and early modern sources, Bruyère goes against the grain of his own argument, according to which terminal capitalism interrupts and suspends possibilities of ordinary transience and transmission. Modeling a beautiful form of continuity in time all its own, his reading practice is evidence that by some miracle literature’s paroles en l’air have not been preserved in vain. Anne-Lise François, UC Berkeley
Preface: Myrrha’s Prayer
Acknowledgments
1. Being Fabulous as the Climate Changes
2. Still Life with Genetically Modified Tomato
3. Store and Tell
4. The Mortal Life of HeLa
5. Oncoscripts
6. Dispatch from the Palliative Present
Epilogue
Notes
Work Cited
Index

About the Author

Vincent Bruyere is assistant professor of French at Emory University and affiliate faculty in the Center for the Study of Human Health. He is the author of La différence francophone: De Jean Léry à Patrick Chamoiseau (2012).