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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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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!

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