Elizabeth Hennessy

Assistant Professor of History and Environmental Studies



Office: 4105 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4029 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 (4105 Humanities Bldg.), Wednesdays 3:30-4:30 (115E Science Hall)

Elizabeth Hennessy


I am a geographer who works at the intersection of environmental history, political ecology, science and technology studies, and animal studies with a regional focus on Latin America. I am currently working on a book, On the Backs of Tortoises: The will to save the Galápagos Islands, which will be published by Yale University Press in 2019. The book draws on ethnographic and archival research to trace a transnational history of the iconic Galápagos giant tortoises as animals at the center of tensions among evolutionary science, conservation, and tourism development in the archipelago. In Madison, I am active in the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE) and serve as faculty advisor for Edge Effects, a digital magazine run by CHE graduate students. I am also affiliate faculty with the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies program and the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies. I teach theories of space and nature, animal history, the global environmental history of the “Anthropocene,” and Latin American environmental history.


Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., Miami University


Selected Publications

  • The politics of a natural laboratory: Claiming territory and governing life in the Galápagos Islands“, SAGE Publications (2018)
  • “Freezing Life in the Anthropocene,” in Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene, Robert Emmett, Marco Amerio and Gregg Mitman, editors, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (forthcoming Winter 2018).
  • “Mythologizing ‘Darwin’s Islands’” in D. Quiroga and A. M. Sevilla, editors, Darwinism and Conservation in the Galápagos Islands. New York: Springer, 2016, pp. 65-90.
  • “Molecularizing Conservation: The Genetics of Pristine Nature and the Rediscovery of an Extinct Species of Galápagos Giant Tortoise.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol. 105 (2015) Issue 1, pp. 87-104.
  • “Producing ‘Prehistoric’ Life: Conservation breeding and the remaking of wildlife genealogies.” Geoforum. Vol. 49 (October 2013) pp. 71-80.
  • “Nature’s Eden? The Production and Effects of ‘Pristine’ Nature in the Galápagos Islands.” Island Studies Journal. Vol. 6, No. 2 (2011), pp. 131-156. With Amy McCleary.

Selected Awards

  • Fellow, UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities, Spring 2018
  • Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, Munich, Germany, Spring 2017
  • UW-Madison Center for the Humanities First Book Award, 2016
  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies/ Mellon Foundation, 2013-2014
  • International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council, 2011-2012
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation, 2010-2012

History Courses