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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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Now displaying: April, 2016
Apr 29, 2016

This week’s energy humanities podcast recaps and takes inspiration from CENHS’s fifth annual spring research symposium, otherwise known as Cultures of Energy 5 (http://culturesofenergy.com/cultures-of-energy-april-21-23-2016-poster-and-schedule/), which took place at Rice last week in the afterwash of Houston’s historic flooding. Cymene and Dominic share fond memories from the symposium and then, inspired by the Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen project, (http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/803-lexicon-for-an-anthropocene-yet-unseen), several of our distinguished visitors offer short takes and keywords for the Anthropocene. Cara Daggett (Johns Hopkins) goes to “work” (13:50), Andreas Malm (Lund) offers “resistance” (17:47), and Lynn Badia (Alberta) muses on “free” (22:50). Graeme Macdonald (Warwick) shows us his “passport” (24:58) and smudge studio (Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, http://www.smudgestudio.org) walk us through “ippo” (30:00). Finally, Toronto-based poet Mathew Henderson reads (36:30) from his remarkable collection, The Lease (http://www.chbooks.com/catalogue/lease). All in all, we celebrate energy humanities as an alien intelligence in our petrocultural system. Get ready for Cultures of Energy 6 in 2017!

Apr 22, 2016

It’s all about plants on this week’s Cultures of Energy podcast. Our guide is anthropologist Natasha Myers, director of the Plant Studies Collaboratory at York University (https://natashamyers.wordpress.com) and author of Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter (Duke University Press, 2015). We talk about Natasha’s work in savannah ecosystems millennia in the making, how to sniff out chemical atmospheres and queer environmental monitoring practices. Natasha explains how plants conduct inquiry in their worlds, their sense and sentience, how they both catalyze and epitomize ecological relations. We discuss how plants trouble human notions of subjectivity, the possibility a plant-based phenomenology, end-of-time botanical tourism in Singapore, and whether gardening can be a redemptive practice. Natasha envisions plants as photosynthetic world-makers and tells us that if we humans want to thrive, our plants needs to thrive too. It’s time to embrace the Planthropocene.

Apr 15, 2016

This week’s Cultures of Energy podcast turns toward the Middle East as Dominic and Cymene speak (8:35) with Rutgers historian Toby Jones, author of Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia (Harvard University Press, 2010) and Running Dry: Essays on Energy, Water and Environmental Crisis (Rutgers University Press, 2015). The conversation reveals the knotted history of energy, water, security and infrastructure that has led to a seemingly endless war machine in the region. We talk about how the politics of water in the making of the Saudi Arabian state, how American energy and military agendas became fused together in the Gulf, the relationship between sovereignty and shipping and how to use seawater as a theory machine. Toby encourages us all to acknowledge energy’s place in the war machine and to commit ourselves to ending war for energy.

Apr 8, 2016

Cymene and Dominic talk drug awareness to open this week’s episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast and then (6:10) share laughs and ecological thoughts with their marvelous and occasionally hallucinatory colleague, Tim Morton, author of Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (Columbia University Press, 2016). Tim explains how his brain works, why object oriented ontology isn’t your granddaddy’s philosophy, how ambiguity is a signal of reality in the Anthropocene, and what we need to put into the drinking water to save the world. We talk about how comedy is the same as thinking, why Interstellar is ecological and sooo much more. In a dramatic last-minute reveal, we also learn Tim’s pick to direct Dark Ecology: The Movie.

Apr 1, 2016

This episode is our first recorded out of the studio and on the road in St. Andrews, Scotland. Dominic and Cymene appreciate all that St. Andrews has to offer by way of golf, gulls and edible money and then (7:11), in the comfort of lovely 5 Pilmour Place (http://www.5pilmourplace.com), speak with writer, poet and ethnographer Laura Watts (http://sand14.com) about her longstanding research in Orkney. We learn about an extraordinary place where the world’s renewable energy future has already been realized, where wind, wave and tidal power provide over 100% of the archipelago’s electricity, where people talk and think energy constantly. Laura reads from her new poetic primer on marine renewable energy, Ebban An’ Flowan, and introduces us to The Electric Nemesis, Victor Frankenstein’s Orcadian bride, born out of electricity and abandoned by hubris, a reminder of the importance of what is happening in the “energy islands.”

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