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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: October, 2018
Oct 25, 2018

Dominic tries to sing Ted Cruz out of office on this week’s podcast and retells a story about the senator’s dirty shirt. Then (14:59) fellow anthropologist and environmental humanities podcaster Tim Neale (of Deakin University) joins us from the future in Melbourne. With him we review their very successful recent Anthropocene Campus and its effort to think deep thoughts and deep time through the lens of the elements while visiting exotic local Anthropocene sites like Melbourne’s “poo farm.” We then return to Tim’s own work and talk through his recent book, Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia (U Hawaii Press, 2017) which traces the rise and fall of Australia’s Wild Rivers Act and the ways in which the aestheticization of environment can contribute to the dispossession of indigenous peoples. We talk about effort to include and exclude rivers and aboriginal peoples from settler liberal politics, the impact of the 1992 Mabo Decision and the negotiation of usufructuary rights, why the Wild Rivers Act was eventually repealed and with what legacy. We then turn to Tim’s new research on fire management, carbon storage and risk modeling in Australia and close by plugging Tim’s own excellent podcast, anthropology@deakin, which you can find at https://soundcloud.com/user-910866758  PS American citizens, please don’t forget to vote!!

 

Oct 18, 2018

Dominic and Cymene talk foot injuries, bears, and a project called "smell my box." We then (15:52) welcome to the podcast the marvelous Caroline Jones from MIT who talks about her amazing research and curatorial work on bioart, biofiction, psychology, phenomenology, neuroscience and much much more. We start with her provocative concept of “symbiontics” which points toward a change of human consciousness necessary for our survival as a species. She tells us about the works of artists like Jenna Sutela, Tomás Saraceno and Annicka Yi who have helped inspire her symbiontic thinking. We talk cultural evolution, survival of the most interdependent as an alternative to survival of the fittest, art as philosophy and politics, feminist bacteria, and the ethics of interspecies art. We turn from there to her current collaboration with historian of science Peter Galison on visibility and invisibility in the Anthropocene. We close on cybernetics, the idea that consciousness doesn’t stop at the limits of the individual mind and what we could learn from splicing a bit of sequoia genetic material into our own.

 

Oct 11, 2018

We get to hear about Cymene’s mod years and her experience this week with “cat therapy.” And then (14:06) Dominic speaks with Cambridge environmental historian Paul Warde about his new book, The Invention of Sustainability: Nature and Destiny, ca. 1500-1870 (Cambridge UP 2018) which traces our contemporary interest in sustainable futures back to the concerns and inventions of early modern politics and economy. We start with the endemic problems of sustenance and fuel that were much on the mind of early modern European government and how they helped to shape future resource provision into a durable political problem. Paul explains how also changing was the idea that government should be responsible for resource provision in the first place and how this suggests that sustainability is an intrinsic feature of modern politics rather than a problem that is likely to be solved through particular policy interventions. We talk intergenerational ethics, the circumstances surrounding the transition from wood fuel to coal, the rise of a concept of “state” as autonomous political entity, the preoccupations of early political economy, early technoptimism, urbanization, metabolic rift and much more. We close with Paul’s thinking about energy policy today.

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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