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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: November, 2018
Nov 29, 2018

Cymene and Dominic rediscover the Violent Femmes on this week's podcast and that prompts a discussion of the best albums of all time. We then (18:54) welcome American U’s Evan Berry to the podcast, author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism (U California Press, 2015) and the PI of a Luce Foundation funded project on “Religion and Climate Change in Cross-Regional Comparison.” We start with the Pope and his views on climate change and then quickly move on to Evan’s argument that much apparently secular environmentalist thinking has deep affinities with Christian theology. We revisit Lynn White’s famous argument that Christianity devalues nature, discuss the need to move past “great man” narratives of the evolution of environmentalism, and ruminate on what 19th century Christian environmentalists considered to be the “moral salubriousness of nature.” Evan shares his thoughts on how Protestant nominalism may have informed American climate denialism over time and also about how walking as a form of “recreational salvation” became linked to the valorization of wilderness. We discuss whether American Christianity is exceptional in terms of climate morality and why American political culture has become an incubator for religious radicalism. We then turn to how climate change is now impacting religious systems across the world and how better intergenerational ethics might teach us to think collectively rather than individually. Finally, we discuss another recent book project Evan has undertaken with Rob Albro, Church, Cosmovision, and the Environment: Religion and Social Conflict in Contemporary Latin America (Routledge 2018).

Nov 22, 2018

Dominic and Cymene talk urban turkey encounters on this week’s edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast. With multispecies on our minds, we then (8:59) check in with Dartmouth’s Laura Ogden. We begin with her experience growing up in the Everglades and how it sparked a life long interest in multispecies relations and the hidden histories of landscapes often regarded as “wilderness.” We touch on her 2011 book Swamplife and talk alligator subjectivity, their relations with humans and the special challenges of thinking about predator-predator relations within multispecies ethnography. Laura gives us her take on the environmental challenges facing swamplife in the Everglades today and then we turn to her current work on invasive species in Tierra del Fuego. We hear how Peronism brought Canadian beavers to Argentina and how their spread into Chile helped her to rethink species assemblages. We talk about Laura’s collaborations with feminist performance artists and ecologists, why she thinks the term “resilience” is an anti-politics machine, and the first environmentalist victory in Chilean history. We close by discussing her current book project, Loss and Wonder at the World’s End.

Nov 15, 2018

California is burning again. So, in solidarity, Cymene and Dominic try to do an intro segment with N95 masks on and quickly realize this isn’t a good way to have to live. To learn more about the evolving field of wildfire management we then (13:40) chat with the amazing Adriana Petryna from U Penn. First we ask how a nice anthropologist like her became famous for studying disasters like Chernobyl. We discuss how she came to her concept of “biological citizenship” and her thinking about risk. That gets us back to wildfires and Adriana’s interest in scientific responses to our unpredictable climate. We get into how current models of fire suppression and prevention are deteriorating as fires become more unpredictable and as firefighters resist the idea that they become a military force tasked with fighting nature. Adriana describes the situation of responding to a changing climate as though it is not changing as “diligent insanity.” We then talk about how denialism is often linked to the idea that we’re protected (by a cult of first responders); about fire as a non-linear process; and about the need to update models of fire behavior to take “new fire” and new fuels into account. Finally. Adriana shares her thoughts on “retreat” as analytic and possible new mode of biopolitics in the Anthropocene. Want to read more? Check out Adriana’s brand new article on wildfires in Cultural Anthropology:https://culanth.org/articles/977-wildfires-at-the-edges-of-science-horizoning-work

Nov 8, 2018

Cymene and Dominic get their mojo back as they dip their toes into the blue wave. Then (13:12) we connect with Anne Galloway about her life and work as a scholar and a farmer. We start with Anne’s thoughts on how raising sheep as a farmer has made her part of a flock and how the complexity of those relations have changed how she thinks about the Anthropocene, in particular about death. Anne answers the question, “Can you kill something you love?” and this gets us to talking about ethics, responsibility and kinship in our relations with “livestock animals.” Anne explains why she finds it problematic that academics and activists often equate all animal husbandry with industrial farming practices. We talk about catching flak from farmers as well as academics, about companionate animals named and unnamed, the key characteristics of sheepishness, and turn from there to Anne’s interests in ethnographic and speculative design and her plan to do a second doctorate in creative writing. We close by wondering whether Anne has any chance of getting her sheep into Peter Jackson’s next Tolkien adaptation.

Nov 1, 2018

Cymene and Dominic recap their Halloween on this week’s episode of the podcast and plug the spooky new Cultural Anthropology series, “Time of Monsters,” (https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1584-time-of-monsters). Then (15:59) with many eyes on next week’s U.S. midterm election, Paige West joins us in the studio to process the social and environmental stakes of our contemporary political situation. We talk about slogging through the past two years of  Trumpism, the resurgence of interest in local politics, the politicization and erasure of climate issues in the U.S., and how much New Yorkers are still paying attention to climate change years after Hurricane Sandy. A frank conversation follows about what climate-minded scholars can really do to help in these political times and about the need to experiment with new media for public communication to help us find wider audiences. We consider whether we can assemble a coalition of scholars who will pledge to give free lectures on climate change at community colleges around the country. What do you think dear listeners? Would you join us? We close with the indigenous hip hop scene that is better than the punk renaissance we dreamed of in 2016. And we promise Paige an owl. PS You can listen to the Snotty Nose Rez Kids on Soundcloud at: https://soundcloud.com/snottynoserezkids

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