IAS Fellow at St Mary’s College, January – March 2023


Elizabeth A. Povinelli has a BA in Philosophy from St John’s College, Santa Fe, NM and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Yale University. She is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University where she served as Chair and Director, respectively. She is a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective, an internationally lauded film, arts and lands based in the Indigenous lands of the northwestern coast of the Northern Territory of Australia. They films has received numerous prizes including the 2015 Visible Prize, the Eye Prize from the Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, and MIFF Cinema Nova Award for Best Short Fiction.

Professor Povinelli is a critical theorist of settler liberalism whose critical through has evolved in over thirty-five years of collaborative work with her Indigenous colleagues in the coastal Australian north. Her early work addressed how settler liberalism, in the form of cultural recognition, functioned to control and constrain Indigenous modes of belonging to the human and more-than-human world from the point of view of her Indigenous colleagues at Belyuen (Labor’s Lot U Chicago P, 1993 and The Cunning of Recognition (Duke UP, 2002). Her work then moved to understand the relationship between Australian modes of settler governance and liberal forms in elsewhere (The Empire of Love Duke UP 2006 and The Economies of Abandonment Duke UP 2011). Her attention has more recently turned to collapse of late liberalism in the wake of geontology, her term of the governance of existence through the separations of Life and Nonlife. Geontologies (Duke UP 2016) and Between Gaia and Ground (Duke UP 2021)


Professor Povinelli is also a filmmaker and artists. With the Karrabing Film Collective she has made eight films shown in multiple venues including the Tate Modern, London; MoMA PS1, New York; the Serpentine, London; the TKTKTKTK. She has created The Inheritance (2021) with her longtime collaborator Thomas Bartlett based on her graphic memoir The Inheritance (Duke UP 2021).


Professor Povinelli is currently working on three major projects. The first is the creation of an Art Residency for Ancestors with her Karrabing colleagues. This project examines the relationship between human and more-than-human made rock and reef ecologies in the context of oceanic warming. The second is an examination of the differential incorporation of the Povinelli Simonaz clan from Val Rendena, Trentino, Italy and the Nunggudi and Mudi clans from Karrabing coastal regions of the Northern Territory, Australia into colonial modernity. The third project is a illustrated fiction work tentatively titled, Alice Henry, and the chronicle of the fall of the western plateau.


Professor Povinelli has received numerous grants, invited lectures, and named appointments for her work, most recently Core Lecturer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Afield Fellowship Prize; Regna Darnell Distinguished Lecture; Allaince Professor, Sorbonne-Université Paris 1; Corresponding Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities; Northrop Frye Visiting Professor, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto; and the Lionell Trilling Prize for Geontologies.


For her IAS Fellowship, she will be continuing her work with the Karrabing Film Collective, the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and the Northern Territory Department of Heritage to reconceptualize the relationship between the human and more-than-human construction of the now fragile Karrabing coastal region. Specifically, this work will focus on the relationship between centuries old rock fish weirs at an ecological sensitive coastal region and Karrabing ancestral coastal beings, especially several reef-based ancestors in the shadow of extractive industries, warming rises and rising tides.

Professor Povinelli will also contribute to the IAS supported major project Opportunities in Pollution, which seeks to understand the emergent relations between human and nonhuman species in the polluted landscape of North East England.