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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: June, 2018
Jun 29, 2018

Cymene and Dominic debate the Pet Rock as a capitalist or proto-new-materialist venture on this week’s episode of the podcast. Then (16:59) we welcome to the podcast multitalented environmental humanist and soon-to-be decanal superstar Jeffrey Jerome Cohen from Arizona State. With Jeffrey we talk about unsustainably hot desert cities as harbingers of the future and then quickly get to his fascinating book Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (U Minnesota Press, 2015) and its exploration of litho-human relationships both medieval and modern. Jeffrey explains how his work seeks to appreciate medieval ways of knowing. He argues that they might help us to reinvigorate our way of understanding the world today—not least by conceiving lithic materials as something more than inert resources—and improve our ethics of relationality with the more-than-human world. We talk about stones as transport devices in human storytelling and as archives of catastrophe, the Noah’s Ark trope, and fire as elemental force, human companion, and challenge to think with. We then turn to Jeffrey’s work on monsters, but mostly as a pretense to get him to tell us his Pixar lawsuit story. Finally we discuss his most recent book, Earth(Bloomsbury, 2017), co-authored with planetary geologist, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, and how we might imagine human life as part of planetary life more widely. Wondering why monsters and aliens are green? Listen on!

Jun 21, 2018

On this week’s podcast, in honor of the summer solstice we bring to you another edition of Soylent Rainbow, our occasional special feature talking ecopocalyptic films past and present. This time, we decided to revisit the 1995 Kevin Costner vehicle, Waterworld, to see if the critics of yesteryear were too harsh. Was Waterworld really ahead of its time in spotlighting climate change? We surface the energy and environmental themes of the film, muse on its clunky dialogue and nods to Greek mythology, and then talk recycling, colanders-as-hats, the charm and hokiness of non-CGI effects, “go juice,” “smeat,” the cameo of the Exxon Valdez, toxic masculinity and nuclear families and much more. Thanks to everyone who sent us suggestions! There were so many good ones, it was hard to choose and we’ll try to squeeze in more Soylent Rainbow episodes in the weeks to come :)

Jun 14, 2018

On this week’s Cultures of Energy pod we discuss this week’s disturbing revelations concerning the toxic work environment at the journal HAU (3:04)—if you need/want to catch up on the story please check out @hilaryagro and footnotesblog.com—and discuss the wider implications for Open Access publishing in Anthropology. Then, after a brief detour through feats of superraccoon strength we turn (18:00) to imaginaries of the more-than-human as we welcome (21:01) Andrew Pilsch to the podcast to discuss his new book Transhumanism: Evolutionary Futurism and the Human Technologies of Utopia (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start by talking about the principal tenets of transhumanist thinking, as technological futurist movement and lifestyle brand and then get into the controversies surrounding transhumanism’s settler colonial and masculinist instincts and its impact upon Silicon Valley culture. We explore some of the evolutionary futurisms that predated transhumanism and ask whether computerization drove h+ thinking or vice-versa. We talk meme culture, ideas of the afterlife, Skynet, accelerationism, jetpack communism, and Andrew explains why feminist scholarship has been so important for his thinking about technological futurism. That leads us to xenofeminism and the effort to reclaim reason from patriarchal knowledge. And what Generation Z thinks of transhumanism. As Andrew says, just because things sound like crazy sci/fi ideas doesn’t make them less real. So if you care to upload your consciousness into our eternal cloud of reason, listen on!

Jun 8, 2018

Live from Santa Cruz, CA, Cymene and Dominic cover the politics of homelessness, celebrity academic sightings, and the legacy of R.E.M. Then (13:01) anthropologist and filmmaker Juan Salazar joins us from the future (or at least Friday). We talk with him about his several currents projects related to climate change and Antarctica, including a comparative project on Antarctica’s “gateway cities” (Capetown, Christchurch, Hobart, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia) and how they are creating a new urban culture facing South rather than North. We discuss how climate change has generated unprecedented attention in the Antarctic and Juan explains how he became interested in charting “anticipatory modes of futuring” through media ranging from documentaries to museums to games. That leads us to his film Nightfall on Gaia (https://vimeo.com/117241386) and to why he thinks anthropological theory has not sufficiently engaged the problem of the future in recent years. Juan talks us through his filmmaking process, how he bridges the ethnographic and speculative dimensions of the work, and what he finds problematic in Antarctica films like Werner Herzog’s, Encounters at the End of the World. We turn then to Antarctica as an extraterrestrial space and close by talking about new projects including one concerning the longest bamboo bridge in the world and another about the rise of environmental insecurity following the peace process in Colombia.

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