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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, 2017
Apr 26, 2017

Cymene and Dominic talk globalist cucks and S-Town and then (16:58) we sit down to a lovely cup of coffee with the multitalented Joe Dumit, author of Drugs for Life: How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (Duke University Press). We talk to Joe about the amazing game about fracking he and his students at UC-Davis are developing and how they managed to capture the spirit of the game we are already playing. Joe shares his thoughts about game design as a mode of critical research and pedagogy and how games can help us to understand the logic of complex social issues. We move from there to discuss Joe’s current research on fascia, the web of connective tissue that holds the parts of our bodies together. We learn about the constant rebalancing that fascia allows the body to perform complex motions. Joe explains ideokinesis to us and how it refutes body/mind separation and tells us about his fieldwork with choreographers, movement practitioners and bodyworkers. Joe explains why he’s come to think about fascia as a kind of helpful alien creature with peripheral intelligence. Finally we talk substance as method and ecosexuality, in which nature becomes lover rather than mother.

Apr 21, 2017

Dominic and Cymene talk diet soda, dementia and the art of titling books and then (13:40) we welcome to the pod UNC English professor Matthew Taylor, author of Universes without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature (U Minnesota Press, 2013), to talk about, among other things, the ethics and politics of posthumanism. Matt shares thoughts about how posthumanism can veer into superhumanism and on how both ecophobia and ecophilia are entwined in our thinking about the Anthropocene. We touch on Edgar Allan Poe’s dark ecology, race and imperialism, Christianity, growth metaphysics and whether there has been a distinctively American contribution to Anthropocene philosophy. We turn from there to questions of ethics and agency and Matt’s current work on the problems of equating politics with action. Matt argues that doing less may be precisely what we need to move forward. We talk about narrative as experimentation, the narrative beats of Anthropocene discourse and the promises and perils of speciesism. Matt shares with us what he finds exciting in science fiction and we close on his thoughts on teaching critical thinking at a public university in an age of alternative facts.

Apr 19, 2017

A special bonus podcast this week offers a mosaic of keywords and reflections from participants in CENHS’s annual energy humanities extravaganza. Cymene and Dominic lead things off with a discussion of Margaret Thatcher’s own private restroom and what it takes to be identified as an artist these days. Then (14:25) Leah Stokes (UC Santa Barbara) talks “Republicans” and why we need them to make progress on climate change; (18:05) Timothy Moss (Humboldt U Berlin) engages the complexities of “municipalization” when it comes to energy; (21:20) our own postdoctoral fellow Abby Spinak explains why “craft” has become so meaningful to her of late; (25:39) Jón Gnarr returns to the pod to muse on “cycles” of energy addiction; (31:20) Conor Harrison (U South Carolina) discusses “islands” as sites of experimentation with renewable energy and finally (34:22) artist and engineer Natalie Jeremijenko (Environmental Health Clinic and Lab) talks “taxidermy” in the context of her Museum of Natural Futures project. Thanks for all your support and kind wishes, dear listeners. Get ready for Cultures of Energy 7 coming your way in April 2018!!

Apr 13, 2017

Your co-hosts chat about the return of Veep and a new indie film under production by the rogue AI of the American Anthropological Association’s panel submissions system, Being Chris Kelty. Then we welcome architectural historian Daniel Barber from Penn Design to the podcast to talk about the history of solar homes and what past ventures in solar design can teach us about our solar futures. Starting with his recent book, A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War (Oxford UP, 2016), we discuss how the Second World War and early worries about peak oil spurred solar thermal home designs in the 1940s and 1950s. We explore the relationship of modernism to solar energy and how modernism’s experimental capacity was harnessed and focused on homes to solve social problems. We also examine the role suburbanization played in this story and what we’ve forgotten about the environmental and cultural utopias that were once associated with suburban communities. Daniel explains how energy experimentation in the 1950s can be seen as alternative origin story for contemporary environmentalism, how the solar homes of the past have influenced solar homes today and how solar suburb projects in the U.S. were eventually redirected toward solar development projects in the Global South. We turn from there to Daniel’s current book project, Climatic Effects, which explores climate-focused architectural design methods from the 1930s to the 1960s and how architects contributed to the emergent science of climatology. We close on Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, the true story behind the “arcology” and the amazing plan to move all of New Jersey into one building.

Apr 6, 2017

Your co-hosts chat about hyperloops, hydrarails and that time Newt Gingrich flirted with Cymene. Then (16:54) renowned sociologist Saskia Sassen joins us to share her thinking about our contemporary environmental predicament. We talk about finance as the steam engine of our era, the reasons for its recent rise, and whether Saskia feels that finance can contribute to reversing environmental degradation. We then turn to her most recent book Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard UP, 2014), in particular to her discussion of the impacts of mining, and explore her argument that we need new concepts to replace the American-centric categories of mid 20th century social science. Saskia shares her thoughts on the Anthropocene and the Chthulucene and why she is interested in the problem of the “systemic edge” where our categories of analysis cease to capture the intensity of contemporary social and environmental conditions. We turn from there to the current crises of liberalism, water, and immigration and Saskia explains why she thinks that political classes across the world seem so checked out now. She details the unremarkable instruments that have scaled to produce planet-wide environmental destruction and asks whether it’s possible to imagine equally simple instruments for doing good in the world, perhaps by thinking and acting more like the biosphere itself. Finally we return to one of Saskia’s favorite topics—cities—and how urban space contains our future frontiers of politics and life. What are the ethics of the city? What’s it like to walk the city with Saskia Sassen? Listen on and find out!

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