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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: March, 2019
Mar 28, 2019

Dominic and Cymene talk about the weltschmerz of turning 10, review this week’s flood & fire news and offer handy recycling tips (e.g. don't recycle snakes!) on this week’s podcast. We then (19:08) are delighted to welcome the marvelous video artist, curator and theorist, Ursula Biemann (https://www.geobodies.org) to the conversation; Ursula has thematized energy and environment themes extensively in her work. We start with oil and her 2005 project, Black Sea Files (https://www.geobodies.org/art-and-videos/black-sea-files) which explores how energy infrastructure shapes flows of fuel and people in the Caspian region. We discuss the multiperspectival camera work that is one of her signatures and move from there to Forest Law (2014) which contrasts the logics of oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon with indigenous cosmology of the living forest (https://www.geobodies.org/art-and-videos/forest-law). We talk about forests as future proliferating ecologies, how film can make visible connections between processes and places across the world, and why she likes to think of her films as doing work opposite to abstraction. We move then to Deep Weather (2013), a short film that connects the tar sands of northern Canada to the “hydro-geography” of an increasingly flood-threatened Bangladesh (https://www.geobodies.org/art-and-videos/deep-weather). In closing, Ursula explains to us her next project: founding a university in Ecuador to help bridge indigenous and western forms of environmental knowledge. Listen and enjoy!  Ps Wishing Ms. Brijzha Boyer a very happy birthday!

Mar 21, 2019

Cymene and Dominic talk corporate irresponsibility—looking at you ITC and Boeing—on this week’s podcast. Then (13:44) we welcome the legendary Tim Ingold to the conversation. We start by talking about his new book, Anthropology: Why it Matters (Polity Press, 2018) and Tim explains why he thinks the practice of science should be grounded in art. We move from there to the importance of amateurism, how much impact phenomenology has had upon Tim’s thinking about biosocial being, and why he wanted to write a manifesto about anthropology’s relevance today. We engage his arguments that anthropology’s attention to different ways of thinking and being in the world are crucial speculative resources and how overcoming the conventional concept of inheritance might be the key to overcoming the opposition between the biological and the social. We turn from there to understanding life as a constant flow of re/productive activity and the temporal and performative basis of shared imagination. That leads us to his second recent book, Anthropology and/as Education (Routledge, 2018) in which Tim pushes back against the idea that education is about the transmission of information. From there we talk about what fascinates him about architecture, how to think about creation beyond the imposition of form on to matter, process ontology and why clouds are not furniture of the sky. We close on the Anthropocene and how Tim views the goal of sustainability not as solving all problems for all time but of giving each generation the possibility of starting afresh.

Mar 14, 2019

Cymene discovers the joy of Bob Ross on this week’s edition of the podcast and your co-hosts take a moment to discuss the scandal that is pay to play higher education. Then (18:09) we welcome to the pod the dynamite duo of Lauren Berlant and Katie Stewart to talk about their marvelous new book, The Hundreds(https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-hundreds?viewby=subject&categoryid=80&sort=author in which the contributions are all written in multiples of a hundred words. We hear the origin story of the project and its aim to explore ways of documenting ordinariness in which one could develop concepts based on descriptions.  We turn from there to Katie and Lauren’s different writing styles, affectography vs. ethnography, and the magic of shortness.  Our guests discuss whether there is a new critical and collaborative ethics afoot in the human sciences today and muse on the intimacy of misrecognition. We talk about their new series at Duke UP, “Writing Matters”, and how they came to the idea for the unusual index and reference sections of the book. Finally, we close with their advice to scholars just starting out on fostering collaborations and talk about importance of building trust and why there’s nothing better than good brainstorming.

Mar 7, 2019

Cymene’s sushi confessions on this week’s podcast lead us to the idea that supporting daydrinking and carb-heavy lunches in the oil industry might be an effective way to slow down the advance of petroculture (Behold, the Napocalypse!) Then (14:25) we welcome to the podcast the fantastic Lucas Bessire (University of Oklahoma). We talk with Lucas about his award-winning book Behold the Black Caiman (U of Chicago Press, 2014) and how it synthesized years of fieldwork in the Chaco region of Paraguay on indigenous Ayoreo reactions to environmental transformation and devastation. We talk about myths of “first contact” with isolated peoples as a kind of governmental fiction and turn from there to topics such as: Ayoreo irreverence to stable form, anthropology as a bedeviling practice, surviving contact, indigenous radio and poetic realignment, and the need to talk about rebecoming as a value that coexists with loss. We then move to Lucas’s work on the Ayoreo video project https://lucasbessire.net/yocoredie-the-ayoreo-video-project/) and the resource frontier resonances between the Chaco and his native Kansas in the era of fracking. We close talking about his current research ventures including “After the Aquifer”—which grapples with groundwater depletion and responsibility in the American Great Plains—and the Arctic Futures Working Group.

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