New Books in the Arts & Sciences

Celebrating Recent Work by Bruce Robbins

Monday, December 4, 2017  6:15pm - 7:30pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


Free and open to the public

No registration necessary

First come, first seated


The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities

Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences in the Humanities

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


By Semester