Elizabeth Hennessy

Professor of History, Author


Elizabeth Hennessy is a geographer and tenured professor of history, history of science, and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she sits on the steering committee of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment and co-directs a working group on Environmental Justice in Multispecies Worlds.
As a scholar of environmental governance in Latin America, Hennessy’s research bridges political ecology, environmental history, multispecies studies, and science and technology studies to reveal how diverse ways of knowing the world structure political conflicts surrounding charismatic and economically important species. She combines place-based ethnographic and archival research to analyze how relationships among scientific understandings of life, the political economy of development, and local livelihoods shape resource-based development and conservation strategies in Ecuador.
Her first book, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden was published by Yale University Press in October 2019 and was a finalist for the 2020 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. She is currently working on a new project examining how the production of palm oil has reshaped relationships among land tenure, labor, and local ecologies in continental Ecuador.
Hennessy completed her PhD in Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. Her research has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation/Social Science Research Council, the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies, and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.
At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Hennessy advises graduate students in History, the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and Geography. For three years (2015-2018), she was the faculty advising editor for Edge Effectsa digital magazine run by graduate students associated with the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment.
TOPICS: History, Environmental Justice 

In the News

The New York Review of Books

The Brilliant Plodder

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Washington Post

We’re trying to keep the Galapagos pristine. That might destroy them.

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‘On The Backs Of Tortoises’ Challenges Us To Consider How Much Of Life Is Intertwined

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