Dominic and Cymene talk surprise interspecies encounters. Then (11:08) we talk to composer, musician and sonic activist Matthew Burtner (http://matthewburtner.com , http://www.ecosono.org) about his work in ecoacoustics that touches on environmental issues ranging from multispecies relations to climate change. Matthew explains how his upbringing in Alaska created an early interest in the environment and led him toward an accidental kind of climate activism. Then we talk wind and breathing, why he composed the world’s first climate change opera (Auksalaq), how he collaborates with scientists to sonify and perform scientific data, and why he feels that music can allow us to experience time scales and environments differently. We hear the fascinating story behind how Matthew became the world’s most famous composer of music for moths, the challenges of writing music for multiple species, and how creating new sonic environments could help to address environmental crises like pollination. Finally, Matthew explains why he feels it’s so important to decenter humans in his art and activism. Listen on!
Ofcymene and Ofdominic share their thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale and then (17:20) we are delighted to welcome to the podcast, Gretchen Bakke, anthropologist and author of the celebrated The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and our Energy Future (Bloomsbury, 2016). We begin with this week’s announcement of the termination of the Clean Power Plan and the politics of “baseload energy” today. From there, we cover why electricity is a commodity like no other, how electricity is actually like polyamorous love, the challenges of writing for a wider public, and the infrastructural revolution that we are experiencing (but not always aware of). Gretchen explains how the future of electrical infrastructure has come into focus only very recently and discusses how subtraction (from the grid) may become a key resource in the future. We talk about the unreliable state of the U.S. grid and how it prompted the military to pioneer the use of microgrids. We ask whether we can trust utilities to work with us on creating a more distributed and decarbonized electrical infrastructure. And Gretchen suggests that the utility model may already be dead. We wrap up with the place of conservation in the transition, how hyperlocal production could reduce our electricity consumption 40% with no immediate change in lifestyle, and why government (and not markets or philanthropy) needs to drive the transition.
Your co-hosts compare inaction on gun violence to inaction on climate change and rant a little about how we can hope for a better future world when we can’t even make our communities safe in the present. Then (17:57), in the name of improving our political edutainment, we welcome to the podcast The Yes Men, the activist duo who over the past two decades have made impersonating authorities and hoaxing news media into an art form. We find out how they got started in the early days of the Internet and later adapted their craft as the ecology of media evolved. That leads us to the challenges and opportunities of hoaxing in the era of fake news and why they think the rise of Trumpism means that getting involved in grassroots politics is now more important than engineering spectacles. They explain why climate change has become such an important focus of their activism, how they balance seriousness and humor, and why it’s so important that we get past our own guilt about the bad choices we’re forced to make and get active and communicative. Something’s coming, Houston. If you’re interested in getting involved, say yes at yeslab.org. For more information on The Yes Men’s past actions see http://theyesmen.org
Dominic and Cymene chat about community wind power, bioplastics, sucropolitics, and the inevitability of edible children’s toys. Then (11:10) Cymene sits down to talk with economist-turned-philosopher John Broome, Emeritus Professor at Oxford and author of Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World (Norton, 2012) to talk about morality, ethics and climate change. John explains why he thinks moral messaging around climate change has been ineffective thus far and how we can appeal to self-interest to stimulate climate action. We talk about the intergenerational externalities of high carbon lifestyles, how large scale actions like a carbon tax could change the identity of future generations, and the need to reform mainstream economic theories of efficiency, value, goodness, and nature. John argues that our duty to future generations is not a duty of justice but of making the world a better place. Does economics have a place for ethics? Listen on and find out!
Dominic and Cymene share fun facts about ice worms and water bears on this week's bonus episode of the podcast. Then (9:27) we continue our effort to process this storm season philosophically by welcoming old friend and new dad, Roy Scranton, to the podcast. We start with his now all-too-prescient NYT article, “When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas,” and discuss why Harvey was not even the worst kind of hurricane we might anticipate in Houston. We talk about what’s worth preserving, reincarnation in the Anthropocene, rethinking ontological relations, climate change as hyperobject, the election of Trump as a collective threat response, why we can’t put off addressing societal relations and ethical commitments any longer, and what to tell our children about catastrophes now and coming. Roy explains why he doubts the efficacy of individual action to solve climate change but also why he thinks it’s so important that we continue to live and find joy in our world. This leads to some moving reflections on parenting and climate change and we close with Roy’s new work and what we can and can’t learn from collective action during the WWII era for the fight against climate change today.
Cymene and Dominic wonder whether haunted houses can help in the fight against climate change. Then (11:55) we welcome Britt Paris (UCLA) and Sara Wylie (Northeastern U) to the podcast to bring us up to speed on what the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI, https://envirodatagov.org) has been doing to monitor the unfolding anti-science agenda at the EPA and other federal agencies, especially recent cuts to environmental justice initiatives. We talk about how they both got involved in EDGI, the important of open source infrastructure to their work, the language and practice of data rescue, what the collective has discovered about what went on in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, what we can learn from the successful resistance to the Reagan administration’s efforts to dismantle the EPA, and what is contained in their remarkable new report, “Pursuing a Toxic Agenda: Environmental Injustice in the Early Trump Administration” (http://100days.envirodatagov.org/pursuing-toxic-agenda/). We discuss the EPA’s “starvation diet” even under Obama, how to optimize the relationship between communities and data and why a move toward a decolonizing and feminist principles of “environmental data justice” would be a step in the right direction. Finally we close with climate change as an environmental justice issue, the need to build alternative data gathering systems, the future of EDGI and how you can get involved with their work if you feel so moved, dear listeners.
Please enjoy our first live Cultures of Energy show in which Cymene, Dominic and Penn sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen (of Hot & Bothered podcast fame, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/tag/hot-bothered) talk to Nerd Nite Austin about how to expand our emotional range when dealing with the Anthropocene, the limits of environmental austerity messaging for changing high carbon behavior and, while waiting for the global North to finally get around to embracing a degrowth ethos, why we might want to experiment with embracing low carbon leisure and pleasure activities that could help us to decarbonize our modern lives faster while still having fun. Bonus: you’ll also learn about a low carbon drinking game involving the words “capitalocene” and “chicken bones.” Special thanks to Lewis Weil and JC Dwyer for organizing the event and to Jacob Weiss for ace sound engineering. Watch for the event video coming soon to https://vimeo.com/nerdniteaustin
Dominic and Cymene plug low carbon leisure and pleasure and consider the world of competitive dishwashing. Then (8:49) we welcome to the podcast the amazing Naveeda Khan from Johns Hopkins. We compare the experiences and media coverage of recent flooding in Houston and South Asia, noting especially how terms like “shelter” and “refugee” are deployed differently. Then Naveeda shares her reflections on her trips to the COP meetings and explains what she learned about South-South politics and the anthrocentrism underlying international climate remediation efforts. From there we talk about her remarkable ethnographic work with chaura communities living on shifting riverine islands in northern Bangladesh. We discuss whether Bangladesh is indeed the world’s posterchild for climate precarity, how to think with rivers and about their evolving personhood, how local thinking in the riverine communities challenges both Islamic eschatology and northern climate change discourse, Bangladesh as global future, and Romanticism. We muse on Islamic cosmology, creaturely beings, and ecological thought and then close with a discussion of loss vs. damage. Listen on!
The sun is finally shining again over Houston but the process of coming to terms with Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic impact on the city and region has only just begun. Cymene and Dominic share their thoughts about how the storm will affect Houston’s future. Then (24:29) we are joined by our Rice colleague, celebrated environmental attorney and advocate Jim Blackburn, who is the co-director of Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) center. Jim shares his perspective on what made Harvey an exceptional event but also explains why Harvey is not even the worst kind of hurricane strike on Houston one could reasonably imagine. We discuss the limits of relief that drainage engineering can offer the city and the need to pursue a wider range of non-structural solutions to make the Houston area better prepared for future storms. Jim shares his vision for a circular economy along the Gulf Coast that will reintegrate economic and natural systems, restoring critical ecological infrastructure to the city while preserving the Galveston Bay for future generations. To learn more about Jim’s plan, please read his book, A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast (Texas A&M U Press, 2017). Meanwhile, here are some of the places you can donate to help Houston’s recovery both in the short and longer term: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (ghcf.org), American Red Cross (redcross.org you can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10), Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (tejasbarrios.org, #tejasharveyfund), Galveston Bay Estuary Program (http://www.gbep.state.tx.us), Houston Audubon Society (https://houstonaudubon.org)
On today’s emergency shelter in place edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast we speak to Timothy Morton to help process the Hurricane Harvey landfall and catastrophic flooding that Houston and SE Texas is experiencing right now. We muse on hyperobjects, human-nonhuman solidarities, hurricanes vs tornados, the optimal Harvey soundtrack, Charlottesville, samsara, denial, neoliberalism, storm porn, disasters vs catastrophes, and taking responsibility for the things we understand. It’s a little philosophical experiment from inside the storm. Sending love and support to our fellow Houstonians on what has shaped up to be our city’s most challenging day ever.
Hurricane Harvey is bearing down on the Texas coast, which prompts some moments of reflection from your co-hosts. Then (13:02) we welcome dear friend of the pod, Kaushik Sunder Rajan from the University of Chicago, to the conversation to talk about his fascinating new book, Pharmocracy (Duke UP, 2017), which explores the global hegemony of the pharmaceutical industry. We talk about what happens to democracy when health gets appropriated by capital, the logic of capital itself and questions of historical determinism, how much the behavior of the pharmaceutical industry can be explained by its capture by finance capital, what the Shkreli-esque figure of “Evil Pharma” obscures, and how pharma has come to control a variety of states across the world. We then move on to the sacralization of health, pharmapublics in the global South vs the global North, clinical trials, the opioid crisis, drugs as commodities and whether there’s a clean line between therapy and addiction. Kaushik explains what concerns him about corporate social responsibility initiatives and entities like the Clinton Foundation as modes of health governance and he shares his discoveries about Big Pharma’s underwriting by the US government, which leads us in turn to compare the American empire’s pill politics with its petro politics. In closing we talk about current progressive and rightwing politics in the US and India, Kaushik places his bet on how long Trump will remain in office, and we learn about what’s good and not so good about cricket today. Seize the state, dear listeners!
Cymene and Dominic talk capital and Vanilla Isis and then (11:21) we welcome to the podcast the one and only Jason W. Moore from Binghamton University, author of Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015) and Anthropocene or Capitalocene? (PM Press, 2016). We chat with Jason about his most recent work, co-authored with Raj Patel, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things (U California Press, 2017), forthcoming this October. We talk about why he wanted to write a book for a broader audience, the problems with the “anthropocene” concept in the human sciences, how “capitalocene” can improve our thinking about world history, and how we can avoid vulgar materialism in critical environmental research and activism today. We cover the role that states and agriculture have played in shaping modern capitalism and Jason calls for a seriously engaged pluralism to tackle the urgent challenges of our era. We discuss the cheapening or thingification of life, capitalism as a gravitational field, the importance of frontiers, the violence of the Great Domestication, and why if green energy remains in the mode of “cheap fuel” nothing will change about capitalist accumulation. Jason explains why racial and gender domination are so often lacunae in critiques of petromodernity. Finally we ruminate on how to unmake the capitalist world-ecology and the key principles of the “reparation ecology” that Jason and his colleagues are calling for. Tired of the debate within the left about whether to prioritize jobs or the environment? Then you’ll want to listen on!
It’s all about the Panama Canal on this episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast! Dominic and Cymene sing Van Halen and share tales of self-sabotaging students and then (13:58) the phenomenal Ashley Carse joins us to talk about the Panama Canal research that culminated in his book, Beyond the Big Ditch (MIT Press, 2014). We learn about the early 20th century geopolitics that led to the canal zone and how it helped create the state of Panama. We move from there to the world-making powers of empire and transportation, Panama as a logistics hub, who the “Zonians” are, Panamanian hydropolitics, and growing concerns about drought’s impact on both canal operation and the nation’s future. Ashley shares with us some of the crazier schemes the U.S. and Panamanian governments have come up with over the years to improve the canal and explains how aspects of “nature” like forests and rivers have been made into canal infrastructures. We turn then to his new work on dredging and sediments. That gets us to urbanization and the global shortage of sand, transoceanic shipping, and the deepening of harbors to accommodate still more massive ships. We conclude by returning to the Panama Canal, its retrocession to Panamanian control and subsequent life as a space of post-imperial nostalgia. Listen on! PS Also, we researched it and the Van Halen song has nothing actually to do with Panama. It’s about David Lee Roth’s car. But still it’s fun to sing #noregrets.
Dominic and Cymene go into the vault to talk steam tunnels, heat wells, bland college town food and Enrico Fermi’s ghost. Then (10:41) we are fortunate to be joined by Jennifer Lieberman from the University of North Florida who introduces her terrific new book, Power Lines: Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882-1952 (MIT Press, 2017). Jenni explains how electricity’s symbolization of both nature and human mastery of nature captured the cultural imagination of the early 20th century and she compares electricity’s deep cultural significance in its early decades with how concepts like “information” and “communication” infuse popular ontologies today. We move from there to electrovitalism, how electricity transformed the industrial era, and early electric fantasies and utopias, not least Tesla’s wireless electricity. We examine how the rise of systems thinking paralleled the institutionalization of electricity and the unique kinds of metonymy that electricity afforded. We delve into her case studies including what Mark Twain, Jack London and Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote about electricity and how racism, feminism and electricity intersected during the period. We close with a discussion of what writers today are doing with electricity at a time when new electric utopias promise an escape route from fossil-fueled climate change.
This week on the Cultures of Energy podcast we do a deep dive into a fascinating project, The Climate Media Net (https://theclimatemedia.net), which seeks to make climate change a bigger part of television comedy and drama in the UK. First, Cymene and Dominic brainstorm their own climate TV ideas. Then (18:45) we’re joined by one of the architects of the Climate Media Net, producer Nick Comer-Calder, formerly of the BBC and Discovery Networks Europe. Nick takes us behind the scenes of television making in the UK and talks about the challenges the issue of climate change poses from the perspective of commissioning programs and project development. Nick explains why he nevertheless feels that climate change represents one of the greatest creative opportunities of our era. We discuss the limitations of the documentary form in terms of changing opinions, the need to create emotional stakes and attachments regarding climate change, and why he thinks turning toward comedies and dramas might be the route forward. He shares the surprising results of his research on how much UK citizens actually know about climate change, his thoughts on bringing climate change into weather forecasts and the reasons why he is generally wary about dystopian narratives. If all this TV talk gets your synapses firing, let us know! It’s time to Trojan horse this whole Golden Age of TV thing :)
Summer’s a good time to just relax and have a little fun, no? This week we’re introducing a new occasional feature on the Cultures of Energy podcast, a lively discussion of a work of climate fiction. After debating what to call the feature (Ecoflix, Drowned Worlds, Soylent Rainbow, even Unicorn Time—whaaaat?—) we transport you (14:29) to a Volvo rocketing across the Icelandic Highlands and a conversation about the cult-favorite 2013 Bong Joon Ho film, Snowpiercer. Together with our special guest, Icelandic filmmaker, comedian and podcaster, Ragnar Hansson, we do a deep dive into the film and the controversy surrounding its release in the U.S. Do you think insect bars get a bad rap? Concerned about Chris Evans’s emotional range? Unflappable in the face of raver mobs? Then listen on!
Dominic and Cymene eat crow about Larsen C, discuss d-bags and make an exciting announcement about next week’s episode. Then (16:29) we welcome to the podcast former CENHS postdoc and current Arizona anthropologist Gökçe Günel. We learn about Gökçe’s fascinating work on Abu Dhabi’s prototype city-of-the-future, Masdar City, a project which recently culminated in her forthcoming book, Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Duke Univ. Press, 2018). We talk about the early hype surrounding Masdar and what actually came to be, some of the most interesting experiments (driverless pod cars, an energy-based currency system), the aspirations of Arab urbanism, and why the project as a whole has often been called a failure. Gökçe shares with us her thoughts about the true legacies of Masdar, urban retrofitting, labor theory of value vs. energy theory of value, and proleptic temporality (the telling of the future before the future happens). We turn from there to Gökçe’s more recent work on desalination and carbon capture in the Arabian peninsula and finally to her current work on power ships, floating generators that are being used to power cities across the world. Listen on!
With Antarctica back in the news again, Dominic and Cymene share their feels about the imminent Larsen C calving and the possibly less probable rise of penguins and puffins against human governance (#thepuffrising). Then we talk to the only anthropologist we know who works in Antarctica, the fabulous Jessica O’Reilly from Indiana University. We start by discussing how public and scientific narratives about Antarctica have changed over the past 15 years, the disintegration of Larsen B during Jessy’s research, and the rise of “crack tourism” at Larsen C. We turn from there to her new book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance (Cornell U Press, 2017), and talk about charismatic data and charismatic ice, Antarctica as a society of experts, the Antarctic treaty and what’s happening with polar politics today. Jessy discusses the inherent conservatism of climate scientists, what they say to each other beyond the public eye, and whether she can imagine Antarctica morphing into a resource frontier as the Arctic has. Finally we turn to her exciting new research project, an ethnographic study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Listen on! PS A big late-breaking Cultures of Energy pod shoutout to Volvo for accelerating the phaseout of internal combustion engines; the news broke just after we’d recorded this episode.
Cymene and Dominic talk drone dreams, disappearing glaciers and boring sagas and then (13:07) the wonderful Sophia Roosth (Harvard, History of Science) joins the pod to talk about, among other things, her excellent new book, Synthetic: How Life Got Made (U Chicago Press, 2017). We begin with synthetic biology, where it came from and what counts as “life” and what counts as “making” in the field. We then discuss how synthetic biologists think their way between creation, construction, and design, the noise and signal of life, exegesis as an evolutionary force, whether genetically modified organisms are queer lifeforms, and how synthetic biology and maker culture intersected in the amateur DIY bio community. We talk about intellectual property, venture capital and how bioengineering came to be captured by the logic of industrial capitalism. We turn from there to bioterror and why synthetic biology doesn’t make Sophia’s top ten list of things to be scared about. We cover biological salvage and deextinction experiments like Pleistocene Park and Sophia explains how synthetic biology has unsettled scientific understandings of “species.” Finally we hear a bit about her fascinating new work with geobiologists on the origins of life. Listen on!
Dominic and Cymene expose the truth behind a rabid raccoon attack and then (16:46) former CENHS star Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (now Yale-NUS) joins the podcast to talk about his book Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture (U Chicago Press, 2015). Matthew reminds us how much the threat of “peak oil” and energy depletion was a topic of public concern and commentary in the late 2000s and explains how he came to study the community of hardcore “peakists.” We talk about the racial and gender dynamics of the movement and whether they echo the anxieties of white masculinity on display in recent right wing populism. Matthew explains how he came to view peakism as a distinctively neoliberal social movement, what the emotional and spiritual landscape of the movement looked like, the difficulty of imagining a positive life after oil, and whether peakism foreshadowed contemporary reckonings with the Anthropocene. Matthew then tells us about his work to help establish the Fossilized Houston art collective (www.fossilizedhouston.com) and a new project, Loan Words to Live By, which will curate a set of ecologically significant terms that don’t exist in English but should. Finally we turn to Matthew’s current research and reflections on Singapore including eco-authoritarianism, sea-level rise, floating buildings, and the paradox of Singapore as a massively carbon intensive "garden city."
Cymene and Dominic speak ecological truth to nostalgia and then (16:09) welcome to the pod Greta Gaard, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin River Falls, and, once upon a time, a co-founder of Minnesota’s Green Party. We all know ecofeminism is back but Greta reminds us how it never really went away. She takes us back to the beginning and the diverse intellectual and activist projects and intersectional alliances that helped inform ecofeminism’s birth in the 1980s. We talk about the backlash against ecofeminism’s perceived essentialism and speciesism, the balance between theory and practice that evolved over time, and how to compare posthumanism, animal studies and ecofeminism today. Greta shares her disappointment at the ideas that have been borrowed from ecofeminism without due recognition. And we discuss whether feminism can be relevant today without engaging the environment and environmental justice. We then turn to her forthcoming book, Critical Ecofeminism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), which seeks to recuperate the pathbreaking philosophical work of Val Plumwood. We turn from there to ecomasculinity, ecoerotics and erotophobia, we talk about good and bad kinds of milk/ing, and Greta shares what went wrong with the Green Party of the United States in the 1990s and what she thinks about third party politics now.
Cymene and Dominic speculate about fonts and life after academe. Then the fantastic Claire Colebrook joins us on the pod. We begin by discussing her recent two volume collection, Essays on Extinction (Open Humanities Press, 2014) and what got her interested in thinking about extinction in the first place. We talk about whether human existence has more than simply parochial value, our attachments to life, why recognition of the anthropocene should be more of a game changer, and how thinking about end times can also make us consider what is really worth saving. Claire explains why she feels the way we live ethics today can be an indulgent practice and why tough ethical decisions are becoming more urgent. We turn from there to how figures of “the caring human,” indigenous culture, and nature are mobilized in reckonings with the anthropocene. She tells us why Deleuze is not a vitalist and takes on popular readings of Deleuze as a “philosopher of becoming” including the lines that are being woven in the blogosphere between Deleuze, accelerationism and, gulp, Steve Bannon. We cover philosophical concepts of life, the roots of contemporary climate skepticism, the everyday violence of affluent western lifestyles, and the possibility of low carbon philosophy. We discover why Claire thinks that the “Trumpocene” has now trumped the anthropocene. And we close by discussing her current project on fragility. Wondering which of Claire’s collies has a better grasp of the anthropocene condition? Listen on and find out!
Cymene and Dominic process today’s news about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement as well as yesterday's ExxonMobil shareholder insurrection, which will force the company to start measuring the size of its carbon bubble. Then (18:03) we turn to sunnier places and faces and welcome Amelia Moore from the University of Rhode Island to the pod. With Amelia we talk about the Caribbean as a foundational experimental space—increasingly for energy transition—and the illusions of smallness and boundedness that accompany today’s experimental projects. We focus in on her research in the Bahamas, and discuss the islands’ reliance on fossil fuels, the massive carbon footprint of island tourism, the small island as an iconic anthropocene space, and the solar core of paradise. We talk about the politics and publics surrounding sea level rise in the Caribbean, the ethical quandaries of the tourist industry, and how colonial legacies matter. We turn from there to Amelia’s current work on coral, that wondrous combination of animal, vegetable and mineral. We talk acidification and bleaching and how coral has joined polar bears and glaciers as sentinel beings of the anthropocene. Amelia explains how anthropocene disaster tourism is beginning to become a thing and describes her latest research on new corporate social responsibility initiatives underway in the Caribbean and Indonesia that are designed to help people learn how to care for and help rehabilitate coral communities. We close with a teaser for her latest project on social acceptance of the U.S.’s first offshore wind park project near Block Island. Listen on!
Dominic and Cymene talk about the carbon footprint of war, the best paper airplane design and map out an adventure to the center of climate change. Then (15:13) Jennifer Wenzel from Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature joins us to talk about her long and varied career in energy humanities. We start off with the ties between ecofeminism and energy humanities and her interest in oil’s place in society, bodies and literature. We talk about how to disenchant petromagic, the unrepeatable feat of cheap and easy energy, what Jennifer calls the “politics of the pedestrian,” how the Fueling Culture volume came together, and the importance of short form public writing for the humanities. Jennifer explains why she thinks we need to start popularizing “energy transition” as a concept alongside “climate change” and “global warming” to counteract public fatalism that there is no alternative to the status quo. Then we circle back to how Jennifer first became interested in energy through her work on West African novels and her frustration that literary criticism didn’t give her adequate tools to analyze what was happening in place like the Niger Delta. Jennifer emphasizes the need to think critically and comparatively about sites of extraction and our attachments to energy. And she shares her sense that an “energy unconscious” haunts cultural production in many parts of the world. Can energy humanities be a revitalizing engine for the humanities as a whole? Listen on!
To help us sort through a week dominated by spiraling Russo-American political intrigue, we welcome (13:01) to the podcast Berkeley anthropologist, Alexei Yurchak, analyst extraordinaire of all things late Soviet and post Soviet, and author of the award-winning Everything was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2005). We trace the connections between that project’s exploration of culture and politics at the end of state socialism and Alexei’s current research on the scientists who have been working to preserve Lenin’s body since 1924. We talk about the fascinating intersection of biopolitics and necropolitics involved in the effort to maintain Lenin’s body in a lifelike state for almost a century, how discursive hegemony of form in the late Soviet period also informed corporeal hegemony of form, the results of this science that you can find in your own pharmacy, and the network of political leaders’ bodies across the world that Soviet and now Russian scientists have worked to preserve. Alexei dispels the idea that cloning was ever on the table in this project; but explains that his interlocutors do believe that they can now keep Lenin’s body in a near-life state in perpetuity. We return from there to the contemporary political chaos and what Alexei makes of the Trump-Putin entanglement stories currently dominating the headlines. Alexei shares his concerns about the powerful return of Russophobia to the United States, about what popular characterizations of Russia get wrong, and about how anti-Russian sentiment may provide a convenient excuse to defer a serious examination of the root causes of Trumpism. Ready to take a break from the political hysteria? Then listen on!