Anthropology Colloquium: Gregg Mitman

Friday, April 21, 2023

4:15 pm — 6:15 pm

Hybrid (see description for details)

Open to the Public

Gregg Mitman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison presents his work: "Empire of Rubber: Scenes from Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia"

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For both in-person and online registration, please visit:

Abstract: In the early 1920s, Americans owned 80 percent of the world’s automobiles and consumed 75 percent of the world’s rubber. But only one percent of the world’s rubber grew under the U.S. flag, creating a bottleneck that hampered the nation’s explosive economic expansion. To solve its conundrum, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company turned to a tiny West African nation, Liberia, founded in 1847 as a free Black republic. Empire of Rubber tells a riveting story of ecology and disease, of commerce and science, and of racial politics and political maneuvering, as Firestone sought to transform Liberia into America’ rubber empire. Drawing upon excerpts from Mitman’s recent book, this talk illuminates how Black activists, agricultural experts, anthropologists, businesspeople, diplomats, scientists, and writers across the African diaspora rallied to support or oppose the experiment that was Firestone in Liberia. It also offers an intimate portrait of how industrial ecologies, born of racial capitalism, shaped the relationships among people, trees, chemicals, machines, and parasites on what became a Jim Crow corporate enclave on African soil.

This is a hybrid event, taking place online and in person in Room 5417 at the CUNY Graduate Center. For both in-person and online registration, please visit:


CUNY attendees must show proof of vaccination by presenting a valid CUNY Access Pass through the CLEARED4 health validation platform upon entry. Non-CUNY visitors will need to show proof of ID by presenting a valid government-issued photo document. See the full Building Entry Policy for more information.