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Cultures of Energy

Cultures of Energy brings writers, artists and scholars together to talk, think and feel their way into the Anthropocene. We cover serious issues like climate change, species extinction and energy transition. But we also try to confront seemingly huge and insurmountable problems with insight, creativity and laughter. We believe in the possibility of personal and cultural change. And we believe that the arts and humanities can help guide us toward a more sustainable future. Cultures of Energy is sponsored by Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS, pronounced ‘sense’). Join the conversation on Twitter @cenhs and on the web at culturesofenergy.com
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Oct 4, 2018

Dominic and Cymene talk about the country’s first robot sex brothel coming to Houston. And then (14:40) we welcome the amazing Cara Daggett to the podcast. Cara has an amazing book in press with Duke that everyone should pre-order. It’s entitled The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics and the Politics of Work and it describes how the modern conceptualization of the term “energy” only came about during the Victorian period. Cara begins by explaining how Aristotle’s conceptualization of energy as “dynamic virtue” was different from our own imagination of the relationship of energy and work as having to do with moving matter. From there we move to exploring the labor/energy nexus that proved so vital to European modernity. We talk about what empire, evolutionary theory, Presbyterianism and thermodynamics contributed to Victorian thinking about energy. We turn to entropy, decay and waste and how Victorian energy imaginaries have been extended to include much discourse on renewable energy too. We make a brief detour through the Victorian Anthropocene before asking whether it is possible to unwind energy conceptually from a soul-crushing Protestant ethic of perpetual work. We close with a discussion of Cara’s recent article on petromasculinity and the misogyny of fossil fuel use and what it was like to become a target of radical right venom. What would a feminist energy system look like? Listen on!

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