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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: May, 2019
May 30, 2019

On this week’s pod, we firstly recall the happy days of After Oil School 2: Solarity. Then (14:31) your co-hosts share their conversation with the amazing Nicole “NicStar” Starosielski (NYU) about about her fascinating new book project Media Hot and Cold,which offers a deep dive into all things thermocultural. We talk with Nicole about how her earlier work on undersea cables led to a broader interest in temperature as a medium and mode of communication. We talk about the importance of queering McLuhan and moving toward more feminist and antiracist approaches to media. We chat about thermal sexism and the rise of thermal personalization under neoliberalism, thermal violence and the spread of sweatboxes, and her work to develop a non-extractive metallurgical method of analysis. We turn from there to practices of sunlight and why Nicole was inspired to think about solarity via her work as a farmer.  We close on the new book series she is editing with Stacy Alaimo, Elements (for Duke U Press). Check it out at: https://www.dukeupress.edu/books/browse/by-series/series-detail?IdNumber=4219856  PS A big COE pod shoutout to the organizers of Solarity and the Canadian Centre for Architecture for making this week’s episode possible!! PPS If you are thinking of going to the AAS meetings in Canberra this December please consider submitting a paper to the “It’s Elemental” panel that we are doing together with the magnificent Tim Neale. More information here: (https://nomadit.co.uk/conference/aas2019/p/8184)

May 23, 2019

Dominic and Cymene talk about HBO's Chernobyl and discuss whether humans will eventually try to breed chihuahua-scale alligators. Then (18:45) we welcome the multitalented Chris Kelty to the podcast to talk about his forthcoming book, The Participant (https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo44520895.html) and his recent fieldwork on animal control in Los Angeles. Chris explains how the challenge of describing experience is at the heart of participant-observation and how that challenge motivated him to delve deeply into what exactly “participation” has meant over time. We talk through the genealogy of thinking about participation and how historical efforts to make participation mobile and scalable ended up constraining its forms significantly. Chris describes what he means by the form of personhood he terms “contributory autonomy” and how it finds its apotheosis in the infinite and fleeting participatory publics of social media today. We detour from there into the recent Facebook scandals, how Twitter is formatted to foment opinionating over understanding, and what could be done to make participatory practices more substantive and stable. We then turn to Chris’s recent animal control ride-alongs and what he is learning about the politics of human interaction with feral urban mammals, the ethics of making them killable, and current anthropological debates about the Anthropocene and domestication.  Finally, we hear that Limn (https://limn.it) has a new project going on resilience and cities. If you are attending 4S, check out the Limn panels there!

May 16, 2019

We give Mexican President AMLO a piece of our minds on this week’s podcast for doubling down on extractivist petronationalism. Then (15:43) Cymene and Dominic report back from the “Recentering Energy Justice” symposium at UC Santa Barbara, which was the culminating event of UCSB’s Mellon Foundation funded Sawyer Seminar on “Energy Justice in Global Perspective” (https://energyjustice.global.ucsb.edu/about). We sit down with the project leads, Javiera Barandarian and Mona Damluji, together with their colleagues, Stephan Miescher, David Pellow, Emily Roehl and Janet Walker (https://energyjustice.global.ucsb.edu/people) to process the event and what they learned about energy justice along the way. We talk about the need to look to the Global South and indigenous communities for guidance in pursuing programs of energy justice, and the importance of connecting to Santa Barbara as ancestral Chumash land, as a petrocultural space and as a site of environmental disaster. We move from there to the ethical questions of conceptualizing justice cross time and space and the roles that scholar-activism and pedagogy can play in fostering meaningful collaborations concerning energy and environmental justice issues that can move toward true consent relations. We close on what they would do if the Mellon Foundation were (wink, wink) to magically re-up their funds for another year.

May 9, 2019

In a time- and perspective-bending intro segment possibly designed by friend of the pod Chris Nolan, Cymene and Dominic are joined by Jason Cons (jasoncons.net) from the University of Texas who helps us to introduce his own interview in order that we can talk about the impact of last week’s Cyclone Fani on Bangladesh. The news, as it happens, is surprisingly encouraging. From there (18:33) we travel back in a time a week to the main part of the interview. We start with how Austin is adapting to the brave new world of ubiquitous electric scooters and from there move into his work on the making of Bangladesh into an exemplary space for experiments in climate adaptation. We talk about the shifting priorities of development intervention and how they are coming to forefront security objectives like reducing climate migration even as regions around the delta are widely predicted to become uninhabitable in as little as two decades’ time. We discuss the history of development ventures in the country, the imagination of chaotic futures and wastelands foretold, heterotopias and heterodystopias, delta temporalities and fugitive landscapes. Jason explains the limited capacity of political and legal imaginations predicated on dry land to understand the damp ontology of alluvial regions. On the last lap we talk about the usefulness of the Anthropocene concept in Bangladesh, and his recent publications on chokepoints and resource frontiers.

May 2, 2019

Cymene and Dominic talk about homemade treadmills and the virtues of wasting time on this week’s podcast. Then (15:33) we welcome the one and only Kathryn Yusoff, Professor of Inhuman Geography (best job title ever!) at Queen Mary University of London. Her title mojo is virtually unstoppable because her latest book is called A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None(U Minnesota Press, 2019). We begin with how she became interested in the grammars that underlie geology in the context of colonial history.  We talk about the historical alchemy that produced what Kathryn terms “white geology” and how that history overdetermines much discourse surrounding the Anthropocene today, often erasing the extractive logics that have brought us to our present situation. From there we roam on to the intersection between geofeminist philosophy and critical race studies, the double life of the inhuman, the weaponization of energy, racial injustice and environmental futurity, geology as a low resolution form of biopolitics, the possibility of a geopoethics that breaks that cycle, and the gendered and racialized politics of citation. In closing we talk about queer fire and the flamboyance of the earth. PS The image credit for this week's cover image is © Justin Brice Guariglia (https://guariglia.com)

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