29 March 2024 — 12:00 noon — GAR 1.102

Rebecca Falkoff (UT–French and Italian)

“Industrious Skies: Nitrogen Capture in Fascist Italy”

Rebecca Falkoff will present material from her manuscript-in-progress, Industrious Skies, which examines the role of Italy’s interwar initiatives to fix atmospheric nitrogen—that is, to take unreactive nitrogen gas from the air, primarily for use in fertilizers and explosives. The availability of synthetic fertilizers, and explosives, as well as other products made from fixed nitrogen, including pesticides and chemical weapons, powered major fascist initiatives, beginning with the Battle for Wheat in 1925, and including the draining of the Pontine Marshes, the demographic campaign, and imperialism. Attending to the materiality of the industrial processes and products of nitrogen capture, and to more abstract elemental and atmospheric poetics, she aims to offer a new perspective on Italian fascism and to shed light on a critical shift whereby discourses of global scarcity give way to ecological crisis better understood through attention to structural violence and injustice.


Rebecca Falkoff, Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, is a scholar of Italian and comparative literature and critical theory with research interests in the medical humanities and science and technology studies. Prior to joining the UT faculty, she taught at Johns Hopkins University, University College London, New York University, and UC Berkeley, where she completed her Ph.D. in Italian Studies with a dissertation on autarky. Her first book, Possessed (Cornell University Press, 2021) traces a cultural history of hoarding across genres and disciplines. She has also published on illegibility, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Primo Levi, and Elena Ferrante. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript about nitrogen capture in fascist Italy.


23 Feb. 2024 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100

Volodymyr Kulikov (UT– Slavic and Eurasian Studies)

“In the Service of Resources: Extractive Company Towns across Twentieth-Century Political Regimes”

Company towns are a historical phenomenon that particularly thrived during the era of industrial capitalism. These towns were typically established to ensure a sufficient workforce for extracting and processing natural resources. While predatory extraction of natural resources is often associated with capitalist enterprises, in terms of appetite for natural resources, socialist enterprises were comparable to their capitalist counterparts. The paper will focus on Ukrainian coal company towns and incorporate examples from the United States and China to provide a broader, comparative view. The argument is that the extractive model employed in company towns demonstrated striking similarities across different geographical regions, transcending various political systems. Additionally, the paper will examine the impact of coal extraction on the political institutions, enterprises, and communities involved in natural resource extraction.


Volodymyr Kulikov is a visiting assistant professor at the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining UT, he taught at universities in Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine. His major works focus on the history of businesses, natural resources, and industrialization in the Russian Empire and Ukraine. He is working on a book project, “Forging Industrial Capitalism in Eastern Ukraine, 1870–1917: The Role of Company Towns,” to be published by Routledge.