The Technology and Culture Forum is a lecture series sponsored by the consortium of institutions that also sponsor the Technology and Culture editorial office: The Henry Ford, the University of Detroit Mercy, and the University of Michigan—Dearborn.
Third Annual Technology & Culture Forum at the University of Michigan-Dearborn
Greg Grandin, “Rubber Rouge: How Henry Ford Sought to Tame Capitalism”
March 31, 2008, 4–6 p.m.
University of Michigan-Dearborn, Lecture Hall B (Room 1500), Social Sciences Building. Maps and directions.
In 1927, the Ford Motor Company established Fordlandia, a rubber plantation and American town deep in the Amazon jungle. The effort failed in dramatic terms, as both nature and men rebelled against the attempt to impose FordŐs system of mass production on the AmazonŐs social and ecological diversity. The story of Fordlandia is often presented as a parable of American arrogance abroad. With a surety of purpose and incuriosity about the world that seems all too familiar, Henry Ford believed he could turn the Amazon into the Midwest of his imagination. Yet the more the project failed on its own terms—that is, to produce rubber—the more he and his company justified it in civilizing ones. Yet the story of Fordlandia is more than this. Ford, the man who in the early 1910s helped unleash the power of capitalism to revolutionize human relations, spent most of the rest of his life trying to put the genie back into the bottle, to contain the disruptive forces he himself let loose. Fordlandia is a parable of arrogance. But the arrogance is not that Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but rather that he could tame capitalism.
Greg Grandin, a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim and Charles Ryskamp ACLS fellowship, is professor of history at New York University. He is the author of The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation (Duke 2000), which won the Latin American Studies Association Bryce Wood Prize, and of The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America and the Cold War (Chicago 2004) and Empire’s Workshop (Metropolitan 2006). He has written on human rights, political violence, social movements, and U.S.–Latin American relations, in the New York Times, Harpers, the Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Review of Books.
June 2007. “Hitting the Open Road . . . in a Closed Car: How Air Conditioning Changed Our Road Trips,” a lecture by independent scholar Marsha Ackermann, author of Cool Comfort: America's Romance with Air-Conditioning, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan.
February 2007. “The Ford Rouge Plant: The History and Sustainability of Sustainable Manufacturing,” a lecture by William McDonough, designer of the Ford Rouge Center and developer of “cradle to cradle” design philosophy, followed by a panel discussion with Lindy Biggs, professor of history and executive director of the Sustainability Initiative at Auburn University, and author of The Rational Factory: Architecture, Technology, and Work in America's Age of Mass Production; Timothy Luke, University Professor of Political Science at Virginia Tech and author of Ecocritique: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture; and Sustainable Business Solutions’ Jay Richardson.
June 2006. “Cars and Culture: The Life Story of a Technology,” a lecture by Rudi Volti, professor of sociology at Pitzer College, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan.
December 2005. “The Future of the Automobile,” a lecture/presentation by Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California—Davis, followed by a panel discussion with Gijs Mom, Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan—Dearborn and author of The Electric Car: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age; Rudi Volti, professor of sociology at Pitzer College; and Gordon Rinschler, auto industry consultant and retired DaimlerChrysler executive. The University of Michigan—Dearborn.