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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: February, 2019
Feb 28, 2019

Cymene and Dominic talk about restaurants failed by their bathrooms and “Human Uber” on this week’s podcast. We are then (14:20) delighted to welcome Kyle Powys Whyte—Tinnick Chair in the Humanities at Michigan State, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a philosopher whose work brings Indigenous (Neshnabé) philosophy to bear on environmental issues—to the podcast (https://kylewhyte.cal.msu.edu). We start with the need to decolonize the Anthropocene concept because of how it smuggles in traditional prejudices about Indigenous peoples and often serves as a vehicle for settler privilege and what Kyle terms “settler apocalypticism.” We turn from there to settler colonialism as a mode of ecological domination and Neshnabé conceptions of time, responsibility and morality, and climate injustice as a breakdown in consent relationships. Kyle shares his thoughts about climate change as an insidious loop but also his concern that climate talk too often avoids addressing enduring structures of violence and oppression. Kyle argues for not allowing the politics of urgency to dictate the pace of rebuilding kinship between humans and nonhumans. We close with his thinking about the importance of activism, Indigenous futurism, and the need to get past the idea of protecting this world instead of making a better one.

Feb 22, 2019

Is coughing an identity? Well, if it’s your identity your cohosts have the scoop on a reputed new coughing cure on this week’s podcast. We are then (15:26) joined by a dynamic duo—Amanda Lynch (Director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society) and Siri Veland (Senior Researcher at the Nordland Research Institute in Bodø, Norway). We talk to them about how their collaboration on climate change adaptation led to a new book, Urgency in the Anthropocene (MIT Press, 2018) which takes a distinctively positivist-meets-constructivist approach to its problem. We talk about the challenges and joys of talking about the Anthropocene across the earth sciences and social sciences.  We discuss the urgency of thinking with greater imagination but also of being careful what kinds of imagination we embrace. From there we turn to the Anthropocene as a kind of myth that enables but also constrains government and policy responses. We talk modes of coexistence and the recognition of dignity as a starting point for listening. And we close by discussing their latest collaboration, the ArcticChallenge Project and its focus on oil ontologies.

Feb 14, 2019

What’s worse than listening to lovebirds on Valentine’s Day? Surely it is listening to them wondering whether the rideshare model can be applied to socks. So feel free to skip past all that nonsense (15:19) to our special holiday conversation with anthropologist and philosopher Eduardo Kohn. We begin with his influential book, How Forests Think, and how Eduardo’s fieldwork in Amazonia and the semiology of Charles Saunders Peirce helped him break down the nature-culture dualities of much western theory. Eduardo walks us through icons and indexes as ways of knowing and being in the world and discusses how the modern (human) investment in symbols and symbolic abstraction has contributed to the Anthropocene trajectory. We talk about academic resistance to engaging the semiosis of life in its broadest sense, why ethnographic method should be celebrated as a form of (iconic) mindful attention to the world, what’s similar about art and science as modes of knowing, and how sylvan thinking can be an ethical practice in the Anthropocene. We turn from there to Eduardo’s current scholarly and creative collaborations that cross legal, scientific and shamanic registers in the interest of “cosmic diplomacy.” We close by talking about the ethical importance of aesthetic experiments and accepting life as a wild guess.

Feb 8, 2019

Dominic and Cymene review the Green New Deal and the erotic life of Adam Smith on this week’s episode of the podcast. Then (18:52) Daromir Rudnyckyj joins us to talk about his new book, Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance, (U Chicago Press, 2018), which takes us deep into the rapidly evolving world of Islamic finance. Daromir explains to us the spirit and letter of Islamic finance, how its investment and risk-sharing norms depart from those the debt-based model of western finance, and what the implications would be for capitalism were Islamic finance to become the dominant global investment model. We ask him whether a bigger role for Islamic finance would do anything to reign in the growth obsession of contemporary economic thought and practice. Daromir explains how Islamic moral philosophy limits speculative investment and seeks to imagine a form of capitalism beyond debt. We discuss whether the debt jubilee model really breaks with the logic of western capitalism and whether it would be possible to expand the presence of Islamic finance in the global North without inflaming Islamophobic hysteria. We discuss what “halal finance” might be and whether it could better acquaint investors with the real local impacts of their capital investments. We close talking about Daromir’s latest work on local alternative currencies.

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