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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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Apr 20, 2018

After Cymene and Dominic take a moment to call out for profit academic publishing and cheerleading, this week’s podcast brings you (16:00) the keynote panel from CENHS’s Cultures of Energy 7 symposium, which explored the art, craft and significance of making alternate worlds. The conversation features famed Egyptian artist Ganzeer (The Solar Grid) celebrated novelist Jeff VanderMeer (Annihilation, Borne) in conversation with Cymene (Unda) about worldmaking in the context of our the ecological crises besetting our planet and its species. All three explain their approaches to storytelling and worldmaking and the conversation that follows (43:51) ranges widely from what kinds of new opportunities for story-making our contemporary ecological conditions offer us to the dangers of colonial and racialized imaginations carrying over into alternate worlding practices and how we break free of old systems of thought to imagine true alternatives to the status quo. Special thanks to Caroline Levander for moderating the discussion!! PS If you haven’t checked out the amazing virtual SCA conference, Displacements 2018, you should (!) and can at http://displacements.jhu.edu

Apr 12, 2018

Dominic and Cymene plug Cultures of Energy 7—this year’s energy humanities symposium at Rice which begins today, details at culturesofenergy.org—and then they turn to cheese, why it’s funny, how it can be applied to cats, “cheddaring,” and much more. Is there an anthropologist who knows more about cheese than anyone? Yes of course there is, it’s MIT’s Heather Paxson, author of the award-winning The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (U California Press, 2012). She joins us (14:59) to talk about her research on the microbiopolitics of food and naturally we begin with what’s in her fridge. Heather tells us about her investigation of artisanal cheesemaking and what it tells us about the shift from Pasteurian to Post-Pasteurian regimes of microbiopower. We hear about goat ladies as revolutionaries, the truth about vegan cheese, and debate whether artisanal foodmaking is an elite project. Heather discusses the search for moral meaning in everyday life as a throughline in her work and we turn to her latest research on food safety inspections, the porosity of food borders and the synecdochic reasoning of the state when it comes to managing food flows. We close by discussing the impact of feminist analytics of labor in her research. What is “beef candy China”? Listen on and you might just find out!

Apr 5, 2018

Dominic and Cymene discuss the Houston city government’s recent decision to elevate new homes in the floodplains and they take a few moments to plan their dream dinner parties. We then (18:12) teleport you to the office of amazing Columbia anthropologist and infrastructure guru, Brian Larkin. Brian explains to us how his interest in practices of media circulation led him to research infrastructures of communication and mediation. That leads us to his recent work on electricity in Nigeria, the productivity of the grid’s failure and the ontogenesis of new electric systems like generators. We talk about how the state and modernity figure into electrical discourse, ambient infrastructures, the in/visibilization of infrastructure, and how technology overcodes space in order to create its conditions of existence. We then turn to China’s becoming a global infrastructural powerhouse and how the digital infrastructures of everyday life differ across the world. We stump Brian momentarily as to his own ideal dinner party companions but he reciprocally blindsides us with the information that his masters thesis was on … wait for it … Donald Trump and then shares what he learned about Trump’s appeal. We talk about the explosion of both the conception and reality of mediation in the Internet era and whether a Media Worlds vol 2 might be coming. We close on questionsof infrastructural repair and being perpetually in beta. Hey, who’s on your dinner party wish list?

Mar 29, 2018

This week on the Cultures of Energy podcast we offer up a special double episode of petrocultural analysis. Cymene and Dominic set the stage with a new offshore pub concept, The Oily Hound, and then in the first segment (9:26) Dominic chats with Carola Hein from TU-Delft about her work at the intersection of oil, architecture and cities. They talk about her current research on the “global petroleumscape,” how the constant reinvention of oil has transformed urban environments over time, her design studios on imagining post-oil cityscapes in places like Rotterdam and Dunkirk and the uneven and somewhat paradoxical greening of petroscapes in the 21st century. They close by ruminating on whether the world is really done with oil and what sea level rise will mean for the Netherlands. In our second segment (59:00) Cymene and Dominic speak with Rebecca Babcock and Jason Lagapa from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin about their NEH-funded “Boom or Bust” project (https://www.utpb.edu/cas/academic-departments/literature-and-languages-department/boomorbust/) that collects the energy stories of West Texas and sponsors public conversations around energy’s economic and social impacts in the region. We talk about their experiences organizing book clubs and writing workshops and what they’ve learned—about the precarity of energy jobs, economic justice, the relations between landowning and working families, and local perceptions of climate change—along the way. We close with what people are making of wind power in West Texas.

Mar 22, 2018

Dominic and Cymene talk Tom Waits, velour jumpsuits and the long afterlife of Hurricane Harvey. And then (13:33) we are most fortunate to welcome to the podcast Candis Callison (U British Columbia) a scholar doing amazing work on indigeneity, climate change and journalism. We start by discussing the wonderful podcast, Media Indigena, which Candis co-hosts with Kim TallBear and Rick Harp, which tackles indigenous issues across North America, including most recently the politics of pipeline expansion in Canada. We move from there to Candis’s recent book, How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts (Duke U Press 2014), which explores the multiplicity of meanings of “climate” and “climate change” in different discourse communities ranging from the Inuit to journalists to evangelical Christians in the United States. We talk about the paradoxes journalists face in trying to provide objective and yet affective reporting on climate issues and whether indigenous media projects have different stories to tell than mainstream climate journalism. We turn from there to how we can collaborate on climate issues despite different cultures and meanings, the ethics of care, the layering of climate change upon colonialism in the Arctic and why “collective continuance” is a better way of thinking about the climate struggle than individualist environmentalism. Check out Candis’s recent podcasts at (https://www.mediaindigena.com/podcast/) and take frequent breaks from the news this week to think about warm puppies!

Mar 16, 2018

Cymene and Dominic share wild tales on this week’s Spring Break edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast and make the case for #feralgarden4thward as the weedy edge of Houston urbanism. Then (11:30) we welcome the fantastic Orit Halpern to the podcast to discuss her research at the intersection of data, smartness, resilience and cities. We start off with her recent book, Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke U Press, 2015) and what it teaches us about how ubiquitous computing became positioned as the solution to all our ills. We talk about the importance of cybernetics to this story and Orit gives us her take on its origins, rise to prominence, and impact on how we understand rationality before we turn to the aesthetics and affects of data and how cybernetics has informed contemporary obsessions with “smartness” and “resilience.” That brings us to Orit’s new book project, The Smartness Mandate, and she tells us about the paradigm shift from environment to ecology in the 1970s, how cybernetic thought machines came to inform governmentality, and how financial instruments have come to be fused into projects of ecology. Finally we do a deep dive into the surveillance apparatuses and infrastructural sublime of smart cities, exploring how one can grapple analytically with these ideas without becoming submerged in smartness’s own logic of versioning and iterability. Why join the Borg? They might be better than your bad boyfriend. For that to make sense, listen on!

Mar 8, 2018

Happy International Women’s Day from the Cultures of Energy podcast! Cymene and Dominic struggle to remember an Indigo Girls song and reminisce about desert Stonehenge and vegan punk. Then (12:18) we welcome to the podcast anthropologist Dana Powell who has just published a remarkable new book, Landscapes of Power (Duke U Press, 2018), on the long and complicated history of Diné (Navajo) engagements of energy from oil and uranium to coal and sheep. We begin with the story of what brought her to the study of Diné energy and environmental concerns and how and why the energopolitics of coal and indigenous sovereignty came to dominate her fieldwork. We talk about the resonance of OPEC for Navajo nationalism, the significance of Diné mineral rights, the need to complicate our understanding of what indigenous resistance looks like in terms of energy, the importance of Standing Rock, and the importance of extraction for the Navajo national economy. We turn from there to the growing awareness of climate change impacts on the Colorado plateau, the rising interest in renewable energy in Navajo nation and Diné metaphysics of landscape. Dana shares her reflections on the ethics of ally work and her advice on doing it well. We close with a discussion of indigenous futurist art and how it has inspired her work.

Mar 2, 2018

Dominic and Cymene make a cinematic announcement and offer dubious pronunciations. Then (13:05) we welcome to the podcast legendary anthropologist of waste, Joshua Reno from Binghamton University, author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill (U California Press, 2015). We remind Josh first of all about his undergraduate thesis on the “Columbine effect” in American society and talk through school shootings as a media, racial and political phenomenon ever since. Josh explains how he got interested in studying the United States as a “nation of landfills” and we talk about landfills’ logic of material repression and how they enable fantasies of limitless growth. We discuss the need to rescale waste and make visible its social, material and multispecies dimensions and Josh describes the advantages of his biosemiotic approach to theorizing waste. We turn from there to wastework as a form of labor, metabolism as a conversation in the human sciences, and the energy/waste nexus. Josh explains how many waste-to-energy projects don’t actually trouble the logic of landfill as much as one might expect and the connection he sees between denying waste and denying death in our culture. We discuss the dark horizon of spectacular disaster waste that will accompany climate change and close with a discussion of Josh’s current book project about what happened to all that Cold War American military hardware that wasn’t used in battle. Interested in hearing about landfill ghosts? Then listen on!

Feb 23, 2018

The kids are all kinds of all right on this week’s episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast. Then (12:55) we welcome our guest, environmental economist Shanti Gamper-Rabindran from the University of Pittsburgh to discuss her remarkable new volume, The Shale Dilemma: A Global Perspective on Fracking and State Development (U Pittsburgh Press, 2018) that gives us a comparative snapshot of where shale oil and gas development is at across the world today. Following the lead of the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing, despite its many environmental consequences, has led an enormous rise in fuel productivity, some countries are actively developing shale resources while others have banned fracking and still others wait and see. Shanti explains the arguments governments make in favor of developing shale resources and why the energy security argument seems to dominate all other concerns. We talk about the dangers of shale development and how the risks and benefits of fracking are very often unevenly distributed. She explains what she’s learned about the frontlines of shale development in China and explains the differences between the outcomes of shale development vs conventional oil and gas extraction. We talk about “carbon leakage,” why inadequate carbon credit schemes have not impacted greenhouse gas emissions and, finally, whether it is truly possible to estimate the “social cost of carbon” when the impacts of climate change appear to be accelerating.

Feb 15, 2018

Cymene and Dominic talk love and precarity and then (13:52) we are very fortunate to welcome Stanford historian of climate science extraordinaire, Paul N. Edwards to the podcast. We ask Paul how he might update his portrait of “climate knowledge infrastructure” were his landmark book, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), to be published today. Paul talks about how the Internet impacted public understanding of climate science and helped to make what was once a relatively quiet and settled area of science into a highly politicized field, at least in places like the U.S. We talk about the strategic production of ignorance (agnotology), how skeptics are wreathing themselves in the trappings of science and Paul briefs us on the Trump administration’s war on climate data and peer review. That gets us back into the history of climate science and how scientific consensus was produced around the relationship of atmospheric carbon dioxide to global warming. We discuss whether contemporary climate models are “kludgey,” the Holy Grail of cloud-resolving models, the art of hindcasting the 20th century and how we know the post 1970s temperature spike is anthropogenic. Paul gives his take on whether there is enough climate knowledge infrastructure out there globally to withstand a 4 or 8 year US withdrawal. We turn from there to the energy politics of building new data infrastructure and why Paul finds Bitcoin appalling. Finally, we close on Paul’s all-too-timely new project on the modeling of nuclear winter scenarios and their climatological impacts.

Feb 9, 2018

What do the Super Bowl, horse-based gymnastics, the fact that magic might be really real and bragging about Bruno Latour have in common? Why, they are on your co-hosts minds this week on the podcast. Then (13:00) we are most fortunate to welcome philosopher Graham Harman (Sci-Arc, https://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com) to the program. Graham starts us off with a beginner’s guide to his philosophy, object oriented ontology (ooo) including what does and does not count as an “object” in his thinking. That gets us to the influence of Heidegger and Husserl upon ooo and from there to the optimal relationship between philosophy and science, why aesthetics is first philosophy, the problem of causation and how we are all Stanislavskian method actors when it comes to the experience of art. The conversation turns from there to speculative realism and ooo’s effort to reintroduce metaphysics to continental philosophy. Graham explains why ooo isn’t as anti-Kantian as it seems and also speaks out for what cannot be measured by science in a time when the humanities are under siege. We then explore the relationship between philosophy and physics with the help of Karan Barad’s work on agential realism and talk about ooo’s place in the broader anti-anthropocentric turn in the human sciences since the 1970s. Graham explains to us how Latour became such an important part of his post-Heideggerian recovery, what he makes of the Anthropocene, and how ethics and politics intersect with ooo. We close on his recent book Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (Polity, 2016) and what he discovered about the Dutch East India company along the way. What happens when humans aren’t 50% of every situation? Listen on and find out!

Feb 2, 2018

This week on the Cultures (not Vultures) of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic declare Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom the cultural grandparent of all Honey Badger videos. Then (15:32) we welcome to the podcast philosopher, activist and energy humanist hero, Prof. Adam Briggle (U North Texas, adambriggle.com), to discuss his remarkable book, A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking (Liveright, 2015), which tells the tale of how Adam and his fellow residents of Denton Texas organized a successful referendum to ban fracking in the heart of the Barnett Shale. Although later suppressed by the Texas legislature, the Denton case surfaces both the possibilities and limits of citizen action in a state that severs subsurface mineral rights from surface property rights. And it raises profound questions about the capacity of liberal political philosophy and the governmental institutions it has inspired in countries like the U.S. to truly meet the environmental challenges of our era. Together with Adam, we talk about what “field philosophy” is exactly, the surface/subsurface relation as philosophical and political problem, the rights of corporations vs. those of municipalities and what lessons the dark turn in the Denton story holds for anti-fracking activism going forward. We talk about how to create environmental messages that resonate across the ideological spectrum, the future of fracking, proactionary ethics and how fracking reveals the fault lines around liberty within liberal political ontology. Listen on! PS And please if you haven’t already check out our Chicago Climate Change and Culture (4CI) summer institute! https://summer.uchicago.edu/programs/chicago-climate-change-culture-institute-4ci

Jan 26, 2018

Cymene and Dominic announce their latest educational venture, the Chicago Climate Change & Culture Institute (4CI) and ask y’all’s help in getting the word out —

https://summer.uchicago.edu/programs/chicago-climate-change-culture-institute-4ci — Then (10:48) joining us from the fashionable eastern time zone is the fabulous Lisa Sideris. We talk to her about her new book Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (U California Press, 2017). Lisa explains how her earlier research on the neglect of Darwinism in religious environmental ethics set the stage for this project investigating those who put forward science as a kind of religion. We talk about the historical roots of “Epic Science,” its anthrocentric narratives, our soft spot for the charisma of Carl Sagan, and how scientism leverages wonder to devalue the natural world. Lisa explains how the narratives from these “new cosmologists” also devalue the humanities relative to the sciences and we discuss whether patriarchal monotheism also informs ideas like Gaian spirituality and Teilhard de Chardin’s “noosphere.” She connects new cosmological thinking also to the conception of the Anthropocene, especially the “good Anthropocene,” the Ecozoic and the idea of human-directed evolution. And, case in point, we talk about the Koch-sponsored Smithsonian Hall of Human Origins exhibition and its agenda to rewrite the story of climate change as a positive one for Homo Sapiens. That leads us to Lisa’s thoughts on Pope Francis, Rachel Carson and Biosphere 2. We end with Lisa’s spirited defense of the humanities. Listen on and please help us to get the word out about 4CI!

Jan 19, 2018

Dominic and Cymene report on icy Rice and the raw and the cooked. And then (14:47) we speak to our dear friend Hannah Knox from University College London. We start with why Hannah thinks infrastructure has become such a lively area of research in the human sciences. We then turn to Hannah’s recent book, co-authored with Penny Harvey, Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (Cornell U Press, 2015). We talk about how roads materialize political power at the same time that they incorporate expertise within themselves, whether thinking about infrastructure differs in the North and the South, cultures of engineering, and the co-dependency of rhetoric and materials in road-making. Hannah shares her thoughts on the promise of infrastructure, impossible publics and roads as future-making projects. We turn from there to a sampling of Hannah’s other ongoing research projects including studying a digital simulation that models the ecological future of Manchester and how climate science intersects with other kinds of administrative knowledge in the UK. Hannah explains how climate action and expertise is increasing moving outside expected spaces and politics because of austerity measures. And we close by talking about moral landscapes of sustainability and energy consumption.

Jan 12, 2018

Cymene and Dominic talk games and wombs of yore. And then (15:15) we turn to a conversation with the original blue humanist, Steve Mentz from St. John’s University. We start with his recent work, Shipwreck Modernity (U Minnesota Press, 2015) and its effort to pluralize thinking about the Anthropocene. We are introduced to concepts like the Homogenocene, the Thalassocene and of course the Naufragocene, the age of maritime disasters. We talk about shipwreck as ecological parable and master narrative, and how narrating catastrophes made it easier to endure them. The inhospitable environment of life on the water leads us to discuss scurvy, immersion, and why we need to learn to live inside of wrecks inside of trying to avoid them. Steve explains to us why the ecological future belongs to swimmers instead of sailors. We then turn to a recent collaborative project, Oceanic New York (Punctum, 2015) and his recent interest in Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, the site of an oil spill several times greater than the Exxon Valdez that few really know about. We close by talking about whether oceans are finally receiving their due in the humanities today and how we might reclaim our waterscapes through “wild swimming.”

 

 

Jan 4, 2018

Cymene and Dominic report on the insane fireworks situation in Reykjavík. Then (16:02) Dominic chats with our esteemed energy humanist colleague Michael Watts from UC-Berkeley. Michael explains how he accidently backed in to studying Nigerian petroculture in the 1970s and how he has traced the formation of the Nigerian petrostate from the Biafran war through the insurgencies of the 1990s and 2000s. We discuss the legacies of those insurgencies for the politics of oil in Nigeria today, the epistemological challenges of trying to comprehend the global character of the petroleum in its local/national manifestations especially when “the numbers make no bloody sense” and the industry shrouds itself in secrecy. We analyze the characteristics of oil frontiers and discuss whether an end to the boom/bust cycle of oil development is nigh. Then we turn to Michael’s recent volume, Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas (Cornell U Press, 2015) edited together with Hannah Appel and Arthur Mason, and especially his chapter on “accumulated insecurities” and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Michael shows us the parallels between the neoliberal deregulation of, and actuarial logics within, the energy and financial industries and this brings Deepwater into a generative comparison with the 2008 financial crash. We move from there to Michael’s partnership with Ed Kashi and why photography has always been a passion of his. We close by talking about Michael’s ongoing interest in agriculture—in particular the future of Californian agriculture in a time of drought and fire—and about his work to demystify the research proposal as an element of graduate training.

Dec 28, 2017

Cymene and Dominic kick off the last podcast of 2017 with an emotional year in review; there is talk of resolutions for 2018 and then Cym informs the world about what it’s like to be in a float cabin that’s a little too cold. We are then (18:03) so happy to share our last 2017 podcasty moments with the ever-dynamic Macarena Gómez-Barris from Pratt Institute. We do a deep discussion of her new book, The Extractive Zone (Duke U Press, 2017), its queer and porous analytics, and the project of foregrounding “submerged perspectives” from the Americas against the backdrop of racialized extractive capitalism. We talk about how to localize a phenomenon as vast and complex as extractivism, New Age settler colonialism, and how Andean phenomenology can offer different modes of ecological thinking and social praxis to northern norms. Maca explains why she thinks undoing our sense of mastery in academic work is itself a contribution to an anti-extractivist politics and the conversation moves from there to decolonizing the anthropocene and capitalocene concepts with the help of southern ecofeminisms and the arts. Maca introduces us to the fish-eye episteme and how it can counteract the drone/surveillance logic of technocracy and also to “geochoreography”—moving with the earth and being moved by it. We close by discussing the work of the new Global South Center she just founded at Pratt and her effort to widen the audience for critical theory. Wishing all of our listeners a very happy new year. We’ll see you on the other side in 2018. And meanwhile remember that it’s all about the tease.

Dec 21, 2017

On this holiday edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic discuss redistributions of wealth and what they are looking for in a holiday robot. Then (10:51) we welcome someone who we’ve been dying to talk to for some time—Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We begin with her long-standing interest in climate science and where she thinks the epistemic and institutional roots of U.S. climate skepticism lie. We talk about the broader problem of transcendental facts vs. situated experiences, how civic epistemologies of climates are formed, and what it means to talk about “belief” in climate change (and Santa Claus for that matter). We move from there to technologies of humility, efforts to democratize science, knowledge silos, inter-expert rivalries and the possibilities of epistemic charity. Sheila explains to us why matters of fact and matters of concern are inseparable and why critique has never run out of steam. Finally she shares her thoughts about how institutions like the IPCC could pay greater attention to justice issues and about how we can work to create a global democracy commensurate with global knowledges and global publics.

Dec 14, 2017

Dominic and Cymene wonder if they could drink 12 diet cokes a day. That makes us thirsty for water and the life aquatic and so (11:44) we welcome the brilliant Marianne Lien from the University of Oslo to the podcast. We begin with faunal and floral settler colonialism in Tasmania and discuss early ventures in aquaculture and acclimatization around the world. Then we dive into Marianne’s fabulous and influential book, Becoming Salmon (U California Press, 2015), and hear how a project that started with a focus on globalization made its own multispecies turn toward the study of domestication. We talk about the salmon domus, terrestrial vs. aquatic modes of husbandry, unmaking the wild/domesticated distinction, what invisibility means for human/animal relations, mirrors and boundaries, and the diversity of salmon cultures. From there we cover salmon aesthetics and caring for swarms, the trouble with killing animals, the growing recognition of the sentience of salmon, the value of anthropomorphism for multispecies understanding and the complexity of trying to engineer an ecology. We close by talking about Marianne’s new work on landscapes and assimilation in Norway’s north and what anthropology can contribute to public understanding of the multiplicity of the world. Listen and enjoy! PS Cymene had to disappear half-way through the main interview to be on a AAA panel; rumors of her having had enough of her co-host are totally or at least 75% untrue :)

Dec 8, 2017

Coming to you this week from Kreuzberg, Cymene and Dominic imagine Truman Show Berlin. Then (9:04) we connect to Australia at long last with the help of Astrida Neimanis from the University of Sydney. We talk about her recent book, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (Bloomsbury, 2017), and her efforts to rethink embodiment and relationality via water. Astrida explains to us the difficult capaciousness of “water” as a concept and the need for more particular phenomenological engagements, weighs in on “blue humanities” and talks with us about what seems distinctive and exciting about feminist environmental humanities today. We talk misogyny and the erasure of feminist voices, the politics of citation, and toxic masculinities and that brings us to Astrida’s new body of work on water as a queer archive of feeling. She explains why she thinks we need to talk more about our crazy attachment to a fossil-fueled life and what we can learn about desire from what is dumped in the deep watery places of the world. We talk about the multiplicity of anthropocene temporalities, tidalectics, and building antichrononormative communities. We muse on fathoming and the messy contingencies of water and knowledge and why we need more relating and better imaginaries. We close on which archives Astrida wants to work on next, in particular chemical weapons in the seas around Australia and “rehabilitated” wetlands near Hamilton Ontario, and how water always forgets but also always remembers.

Nov 30, 2017

Cymene and Dominic report from the AAA meetings in Washington DC and talk love, monsters, vodkasts, sodcasts and godcasts. Then (10:49) we are joined by the delightful Kregg Hetherington who transports us to the soylands of Paraguay. We talk about his book Guerilla Auditors (Duke UP, 2011), discourses of corruption and transparency, the pathologization of campesino life and the social life of documents. We turn from there to the soy boom in Paraguay, the fragility of monoculture and the impact of soy agriculture’s extensive chemical infrastructure. Kregg explains why he views soy as a hyperobject and what he sees as the potentials and limits of “soy democracy.” We discuss the statist trap of environmental progressivism, infrastructure, how to avoid a “monoculture of the mind” and we debate the ethics of the future perfect as we wrestle with the anthropocene. Wondering what “agrobiopolitics” is? Listen on!

Nov 23, 2017

Cymene and Dominic explain “trunk cake” and then (9:27) we welcome to the podcast the fabulous Joe Masco, author most recently of Theater of Operations (Duke UP, 2014). The conversation starts with the relationship between affect and knowledge in the U.S. security state and whether Joe thinks biosecurity has maintained its noir character in the Trump era. We discuss the critical role the imaginary plays in counter-terrorist statecraft, how the war on terror helped to lay groundwork for the spread of propaganda and “alternative facts” today, and how today’s condition of climate emergency draws upon discourses and infrastructures of nuclear emergency developed in the 20th century. Joe explains how radioactive fallout studies helped shape the science of ecology and prompt the first international environmental treaties and why the department of defense today views climate change through the lens of weapons of mass destruction. We talk about what institutions of national security and a “deep (petro)state” are contributing to resistance to climate action and Joe tells us how the nuclear era is entering into a new phase in the 21st century even as nuclear statecraft appears to have abolished both “war” and “peace” from the political imagination. We close with a discussion of nuclear renaissance and nuclear sublime and why we must resist a climate sublime that is emerging to take its place.

Nov 16, 2017

On this week’s landmark 100th episode of the podcast, the artist-almost-known-as-Bebeny tells the true crime story behind her name. Then (14:07) we welcome to the centenary party celebrated writer (and walker!) Robert Macfarlane, author most recently of Landmarks (PenguinRandomHouse, 2015) as well as a frequent contributor to The Guardian. We start with how Rob got from his humble beginnings in 19th century Victorian literary studies to the marvelous entanglements of language and landscape that have been his muse and craft for many years now. Rob talks about his work to salvage the linguistic attentiveness to nature found in the cultures of Britain as well as his fascination of late with what happens when a rapidly changing climate outstrips our lexical resources. That leads us to “solastalgia,” the existential distress we experience through rapid environmental change and dwelling loss. And to Rob’s landscape word of the day project which reveals a hunger for biodiverse terrain language. We ruminate on the “English eerie” as an alternative to the pastoral and how it impacts our peripheral vision of environmental disruption. We touch on the plastics crisis, apocalyptic dreams, shifting baseline syndrome, the gap between childhood and nature, and children as wondernauts. Rob tells us about his trip to the Onkalo nuclear waste storage facility in Finland, a structure devoted to the time scale of eternity, and the problem of communicating danger to future cultures. Then we share our encounters with ice, talk cryo-human relations and the true meaning of nostalgia. If you enjoyed this conversation, please check out Rob’s new film, Mountain (dir. Jennifer Peedom, 2017), and his beautiful new children’s book done together with Jackie Morris, The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton, 2017), which we’ll go ahead and call our official Cultures of Energy holiday gift recommendation. Please also take a moment to review the pod at iTunes and support the indiegogo campaign for the graphic novel The Beast https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-beast-is-a-comic-about-two-dirty-industries-art-comics#/ which thematizes the entanglement of the oil and advertising industries in Canada.

Nov 10, 2017

Cymene and Dominic review this week’s blue wave and talk about becoming a more multispecies household. Then (10:57) we welcome to the podcast the brilliant and wise Kath Weston to talk about her new book Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World (Duke UP, 2017). We begin with the persistent siren song of modernity even in the face of ecological destruction, yes/and thinking, what it is was like to be in Tokyo for the 3/11 disaster, atomic divorce, and how our close visceral encounters with compromised environments might be politically generative. Kath explains how experiential empiricism can contribute to what is generally known as “climate denial” and how our high tech industrially damaged planet is remaking us. We discuss kinship, animisms new and old, and what Kath is terming “steampunk anthropology.” Then we talk about the cool thing that happens in the final paragraph of the book—but you’ll have to read it to see!—and how the political ecology of precariousness we live in resists modernity’s desire to know how the story ends. For us, the story ends with Kath’s reflections on life in Charlottesville after this August’s violence. Listen on!!

Nov 3, 2017

It’s been a big week in Houston between Halloween and the World Series (Go Astros!) and your co-hosts process all that as well as recent developments in the investigation of Honduran land activist Berta Caceres’s murder. Then (9:17) we are delighted to welcome OG energy humanist (and birthday boy!) Allan Stoekl to talk about his work at the juncture of energy, philosophy and literature. We begin with Allan’s very influential book Bataille’s Peak (Minnesota 2007) and how it responded to the peak oil worries of the mid 2000s. Allan explains how he became interested in the finitude and expenditure of energy in the first place and why he thinks Bataille remains an important muse for thinking through our energy dilemmas today. We talk energy-as-wealth, the need to spend, and whether there are different ways of wasting than the ones we have now. From there we turn to Allan’s concept of orgiastic recycling and to possibly the most powerful nonsense word of our times, “sustainability.” Talking about his current book project, we cover the scales and time horizons of sustainability and ask why the term is so difficult to avoid. Allan offers a quite fascinating set of observations about populations blooms, the excessiveness of other species and why the Anthropocene may not exist. We learn about terraforming assemblages, wonder what isn’t a city anymore, imagine how metal speaks, and eventually come to doubt that a “balance of nature” really exists. Listen on!

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