Herman Melville & the American Empire

March 5, 2014 — 6:00 p.m.
NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor
New York, New York

The Institute for Public Knowledge and Public Books invite you to join us for a conversation between Greg Grandin and Chris Hedges on the occasion of the publication of Grandin’s new book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World.

Drawing on research on four continents, The Empire of Necessity explores the multiple forces that culminated in an extraordinary event—a slave ship uprising and the deception that followed—that inspired Herman Melville’s other masterpiece, the haunting Benito Cereno. Grandin uses the dramatic incident to peel back the layers of the paradox of freedom and slavery that ran through all the Americas, north to south, the Atlantic to the Pacific. Slavery, Grandin argues was the “flywheel” that drove the global development of everything from trade and insurance to technology, religion, medicine, and even the political categories that continue to structure modern society.

Toni Morrison called The Empire of Necessity “compelling, brilliant, and necessary.” Philip Gourevitch describes it as a “masterpiece,” in which the “the drama of the action and the drama of ideas are equally measured, a work of history and of literary reflection that is as urgent as it is timely.” Maureen Corrigan on NPR said the book is a “is a wonder of power, precision and sheer reading pleasure about human horror and degradation … revelatory and compelling.” Victor Lavalle writing in Bookforum says that The Empire of Necessity is “one of the best books I’ve read in a decade. It should be essential reading not just for those interested in the African slave trade, but for anyone hoping to understand the commercial enterprise that built North and South America.”




Greg Grandin is a professor of history at NYU and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; he writes on US foreign policy, Latin America, genocide, and human rights. He is the author of a number of prize-winning books, including most recently Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan 2009) and has published in the New York TimesHarper’s, London Review of Books, Nation, Boston Review, Los Angeles Timesand American Historical Review. He has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now! and has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show. Grandin also served as a consultant to the United Nations truth commission on Guatemala and has been the recipient of a number of prestigious fellowships, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.

 

Chris Hedges is a writer and journalist. He has a weekly column on Truthdig, where his recent essay “The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies portrays Melville’s captain, Ahab, as the face of the American empire. Hedges is the author of 12 books, including the best-selling Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, and has reported from more than 50 countries,  for the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, Dallas Morning News, and the New York Times. Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, and The University of Toronto. He currently teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey.

To RSVP please visit the IPK website.