Rob Nixon

Rachel Carson & Elizabeth Ritzmann Professor of English
7125 Helen C. White Hall
(608) 263-3005
E-mail Rob Nixon
Environmentalism, creative nonfiction, postcolonial literature

Degrees and Institutions

PhD, Columbia University, 1989
M. Phil., Columbia University, 1984
MA, University of Iowa, 1982
BA, Rhodes University, South Africa 1977

Selected Publications

  • Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press, 2011; paper 2013). Slow Violence has received four prizes: an American Book Award; the 2012 Sprout prize from the International Studies Association for the best book in environmental studies; the 2012 Interdisciplinary Humanities Award for the best book to straddle disciplines in humanities; and the 2013 biennial ASLE Award for the best book in environmental literary studies.  Slow Violence was also selected by Choice as an outstanding book of 2011.
  • Dreambirds: The Natural History of a Fantasy (Picador 2000); Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and World Beyond (Routledge 1994); London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin (OUP 1992). Dreambirds was selected as a Notable Book of the the year by the New York Times Book Review and as one one of the ten best books of the year by Esquire. It was also serialized as book of the Week on BBC radio.
  • I am a frequent contributor to The New York Times. My writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, The Nation, The Guardian, Outside, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Independent, Critical Inquiry, Social Text, Slate, South Atlantic Quarterly, Transition, Cultural Critique, Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, Ariel, Research in African Literature, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire and elsewhere.


Research Interests

Environmental humanities; creative nonfiction; postcolonial literatures; world literature in English; African and Caribbean literatures; Contemporary British literature.

Personal Statement

I believe strongly in the value of studying literature from a variety of international, interdisciplinary perspectives in our age of accelerating globalization and advancing climate crisis. Key questions that are fore grounded in my research and writing include: environmental time, environmentalism in the global South, the art of the memoir, travel writing, public writing, transAtlanticism, memory, and migration.

Beyond the English Department, I am affiliated with the Center for Culture, History and Environment; the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies; Border and Transcultural Studies; and African Studies.  I am a past recipient of a Fulbright, a MacArthur Foundation Peace and Security Fellowship, and an NEH.  I was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which I declined.


Rob Nixon CV


Personal Website

Recent Books

  • Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

    Rob Nixon

    Harvard University Press


    The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of “slow violence” to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today.
  • Dreambirds: The Strange History of the Ostrich in Fashion, Food, and Fortune

    Rob Nixon



    Rob Nixon grew up near the South African desert where ostriches first boomed, and had an early passion for the outsize bird. Later, his rejection of apartheid led him to immigrate to the United States, where he encountered a new wave of ostrich mania: American ranchers were trying to convert the gawky bird into a low-cal cuisine. Part memoir, part travelogue, Dreambirds is a natural history of a fantasy and a beautifully crafted, candid revelation of a man's soul.
  • Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond

    Rob Nixon



    Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood' examines the anti-colonialist struggle against apartheid, and the ways in which American and South African culture have been fascinated with and influenced by one another.

  • London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin

    Rob Nixon

    Oxford University Press


    In contesting orthodox readings of V.S. Naipaul's work, Nixon argues that Naipaul is more than simply an unduly influential writer. He has become a regressive Western institution, articulating a set of values that perpetuates political interests and representational modes that have their origin in the high imperial age.