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Celebrating Recent Work by Bruce Robbins

New Books in the Arts and Sciences

dateDecember 4, 2017 timeMonday, 6:15pm–7:30pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences in the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated
Cover of The Beneficiary by Bruce Robbins

Listen to the podcast here.

New Books in the Arts & Sciences
—panel discussions celebrating recent work by the Columbia Faculty

The Beneficiary
by Bruce Robbins

From iPhones and clothing to jewelry and food, the products those of us in the developed world consume and enjoy exist only through the labor and suffering of countless others. In his new book, Bruce Robbins examines the implications of this dynamic for humanitarianism and social justice. He locates the figure of the "beneficiary" in the history of humanitarian thought, which asks the prosperous to help the poor without requiring them to recognize their causal role in the creation of the abhorrent conditions they seek to remedy. Tracing how the beneficiary has manifested itself in the work of George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Jamaica Kincaid, Naomi Klein, and others, Robbins uncovers a hidden tradition of economic cosmopolitanism. There are no easy answers to the question of how to confront systematic inequality on a global scale. But the first step, Robbins suggests, is to acknowledge that we are, in fact, beneficiaries.

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and the author and editor of several books, including perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence, also published by Duke University Press, and Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State. Robbins has written for The Nation, n+1, and other publications.

  • Author Bruce Robbins Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities Columbia University
  • Moderator Sarah Cole Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Discussant Mark Mazower Ira D. Wallach Professor of World Order Studies Department of History, Columbia University
  • Discussant Amanda Claybaugh Samuel Zemurray Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of English Harvard University
  • Discussant Siddhartha Deb Associate Professor The New School