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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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Sep 29, 2016

This week’s podcast dives into ‘the chemical turn’ in the human sciences. Dominic and Cymene talk intoxication and wonder whether there’s a drug that could cure patriarchy. Then (9:04) we welcome Prof. Vanessa Agard-Jones from Columbia University to the studio to learn about her fascinating research on toxicity and chemical kinship in Martinique. We hear the story about how the pesticide chlordecone/kepone—a chemical now banned by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants—was introduced to Martinique by the owners of its banana plantations. Widespread use of the pesticide for over a decade has left the island and its citizens living in a plume of toxic contamination even over two decades after the pesticide was finally banned. We discuss the North/South, racial and postcolonial dynamics of Martinique’s situation and how ambient toxicity undermines both the possibility of “eating local” and the idea of political independence. Then Vanessa explains her theoretical approach to chemicals, how she seeks to balance the concerns of old and new materialisms in concepts like “chemical kin/esthesia” and “molecular ethnography.” We talk about vectors and scales of exposure, why she wants to study the body memory of the Caribbean and why she is looking to geology to think about accretion and sedimentation. In closing Vanessa explains why the chemical turn is also a queer turn and why she thinks it should be queerer still. Enjoy! PS For more on the chemical turn and Vanessa’s work, see www.agardjones.org and www.toxicsymposium.org ; PPS “Kepone Factory” is a Dead Kennedys song. Indulge your punk souls here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a41PUZ2oRc

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