Event for E.O. Wilson and Alex Harris’s Acclaimed New Book, “Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City”

Mardi Gras Nacho Stand, American Legion Yard, Government Street, Mobile. Photograph by Alex Harris.

An event with storied evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson and documentary photographer Alex Harris at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University will celebrate the publication of their acclaimed new book, Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City. The event is free and open to the public.

Wilson, now in his eighties, has long contemplated the disparity between his life at Harvard and his roots in Alabama, “where my heart has always lived, close to the memory of Mobile’s landscapes and my people,” he writes in the book, the title of which was inspired by his famous exhortation that “we must have a story to tell about where we came from, and why we are here.” In earlier books, Naturalist and Anthill, Wilson described how childhood experiences in Alabama served as inspiration for his career; those books in turn inspired renowned photographer Harris to approach Wilson about collaborating on a book about the scientist’s native world of Mobile. The two joined forces to record the rhythms of Mobile and the Alabama Gulf region through a lyrical interplay of Wilson’s words and Harris’s images—what the Atlantic Monthly describes as “an uncommonly effective marriage of photographs and text.” Click here to view a slideshow of images from Why We Are Here.

Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
6:30–7:30 p.m., author presentations and Q&A; 7:30–8:30 p.m., reception and book signing
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Drive, Durham, North Carolina
Museum entrances will open at 6 p.m.; directions

The authors have brought together vastly different perspectives—visual and verbal, artistic and scientific, intuitive and cerebral, objective and subjective, contemporary and historical—to create a new kind of documentary history. Why We Are Here not only records a particular people and a unique American city and its landscapes, but portrays something much larger: the deeply human impulse to tell a story with both our lives and the world that surrounds us.

Edward O. Wilson is a University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard. As a biologist, theorist, researcher, and naturalist, he has authored numerous books across disciplines, including The Insect SocietiesOn Human NatureConsilienceAnthill (a novel), and The Social Conquest of Earth. The more than one hundred awards received by Wilson from around the world in science and letters include the National Medal of Science, the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, two Pulitzer Prizes and, most recently, the International Cosmos Prize, which honors those whose work has made a significant contribution to the harmonious coexistence of humanity and the natural world.

Alex Harris has published fifteen books as a photographer and editor, including River of Traps (with William deBuys), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Idea of Cuba, copublished by UNM Press and the Center for Documentary Studies. The Georgia native is a cofounder of CDS, and a professor of the practice of public policy and documentary studies at Duke. His work is represented in photographic collections such as those of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The event is sponsored by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, Nicholas School of the Environment, Sanford School of Public Policy, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment, and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

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