An interview with Karen Pinkus

An interview with Karen Pinkus

Karen Pinkus, professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a member of the Atkinson Center Climate Change Focus Group. Karen has published widely in Italian culture, literary theory, cinema, visual theory, and environmental theory. Karen has become ever more convinced that the humanities—critical theory—must play a role in confronting what is the most wicked problem humans have faced. But humanists, she argues, are precisely misunderstood. They are often viewed as either “artists” (“you can create works to raise awareness of what is happening and appeal to emotions”) or “journalists” (“you can help translate our difficult science into legible prose to get people to act”) or “behaviorists” (“you can explain why people act the way they do and get them to change.”). In contrast, Karen advocates for the impractical humanities, for thinking about anthropogenic climate change as unique, not just another environmental issue, and not one that we can solve with better technology inserted into the same paradigms.