Dominic and Cymene review the Green New Deal and the erotic life of Adam Smith on this week’s episode of the podcast. Then (18:52) Daromir Rudnyckyj joins us to talk about his new book, Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance, (U Chicago Press, 2018), which takes us deep into the rapidly evolving world of Islamic finance. Daromir explains to us the spirit and letter of Islamic finance, how its investment and risk-sharing norms depart from those the debt-based model of western finance, and what the implications would be for capitalism were Islamic finance to become the dominant global investment model. We ask him whether a bigger role for Islamic finance would do anything to reign in the growth obsession of contemporary economic thought and practice. Daromir explains how Islamic moral philosophy limits speculative investment and seeks to imagine a form of capitalism beyond debt. We discuss whether the debt jubilee model really breaks with the logic of western capitalism and whether it would be possible to expand the presence of Islamic finance in the global North without inflaming Islamophobic hysteria. We discuss what “halal finance” might be and whether it could better acquaint investors with the real local impacts of their capital investments. We close talking about Daromir’s latest work on local alternative currencies.
Cymene and Dominic discuss frostquakes and fyre festivals on this week’s edition of the podcast. Then (15:49) we are joined by a most esteemed guest, Kim Fortun from UC Irvine, author of Advocacy after Bhopal (U Chicago Press, 2001) and President of the 4S association. We start with Kim’s thoughts on late industrialism and why it became such an important concept for her research. We dig into the doubleness of “hyperexpertise” associated with our late industrial contemporary, and ask what is robust and what is ruined. Kim explains why she favors ethnography as a mode of disrupting ossified forms of expertise. And we turn from there to her ongoing work on environmental health issues and how the challenges of collaborative research spurred her interest in developing better datasharing infrastructures and virtual research platforms like PECE (http://worldpece.org) and the The Asthma Files (http://theasthmafiles.org). We talk about the politics of scholarly communication and Kim tells us what she thinks the obstacles are to the Open Access and Open Data movements gaining traction. We close on her thoughts on where STS is today as a community and field of knowledge and what excites her about its future.
Your co-hosts celebrate MLK day, muse over whether Gattaca invented Tinder, toy with the idea of kale eugenics, and if that weren’t enough, Cymene Howe predicts Ragnarok on this week’s edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast. Valhalla will have to wait though because first (16:51) we catch up with the ever dynamic Eben Kirksey, live and direct from the Hart Senate Office Building in DC. We talk about the climate action impasse in the US capital and contrast that with direct action mobilizations to make New York carbon neutral and to protest BP’s LNG project in West Papua. Eben tells us about his current work on CRISPR gene editing and connects it to his earlier and ongoing interest in multispecies relations. He explains why narratives of apocalypse and salvation surrounding gene editing miss the point even as these technologies do point toward new potentialities of life within biocapitalist regimes of inequality and exclusion. We touch on the ethics of bioengineering and geoengineering and Eben suggests that it may fall to the human sciences (and biohackers) to imagine and enact other modes of care. We close with how he became interested in chemicals and chemoethnography and his next project on multispecies justice in West Papua. Kale Gattaca!
Cymene and Dominic talk democratic do-overs, vegan falcons, Hegel’s bagels, and the 1980s arcade game Dig Dug on this week’s edition of the podcast. Then (19:51) we have a chance to catch up with Matt Huber from Syracuse, author of Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital (U Minnesota Press, 2013), about what he’s been up to lately. We start with his thinking about what a truly socialist climate politics would look like and how it would be oriented to the problems of the new working class, what Matt terms “the 63%.” Then Matt explains why he thinks taxing the rich and corporations makes more sense than taxing molecules. We talk about what lessons a Green New Deal could take from the original New Deal, the U.S. as a “rogue state” on climate, who should be striking to pressure elites to take climate change seriously, the pernicious individualization of carbon footprints, and what should be grown and de-grown in a climate woke economy. In closing, Matthew makes a strong case for a total expropriation of the fossil fuel industry so that we can focus developing energy that is not the ruin of the planet. Enjoy! PS and please do send us your takes on the most profound video games of the 1980s :)
Cymene and Dominic are back and borderline alert for 2019. They recently watched the first half of Netflix’s Bird Box and speculate as to whether the alleged “Bird Box challenge” is further evidence of the doom of our species. Then (16:00) we welcome Icelandic anthropological legend Gísli Palsson to the podcast to talk about his latest book project, Down to Earth: A Memoir, a wonderful discussion of human beings and their relationship with earthquakes, stones and lava. We begin with the 1973 volcanic eruption that indelibly impacted Gísli's life as it destroyed his childhood home and buried his town in ash like an Icelandic Pompeii. We talk about homes and habitats both specific and global, the need for a new geosocial contract, the vitality of rocks, life as geolubricant, and the return to premodernist thinking as we confront that volcano in our living room, the Anthropocene. Gísli tells us about some of the amazing volcano projects artists like Nelly Ben Hayoun are undertaking these days. And we close on geological intimacy, necessary optimism and whether we humans are becoming petrified, even fossilized.
This week it’s our end of year special edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast. Dominic and Cymene discusses a couple of energy news stories from 2018, Dominic apparently says Permian “basement” instead of “basin,” and they share heartwarming resolutions for 2019 including doing more yoga in the desert with children. Then (18:55) our search for a holiday movie that somehow thematizes climate change turned up a strange Finnish film, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, which turned out to be not really about climate change. But it does feature an evil Santa buried underneath a mountain who is set free by a mining operation. It’ll make a fittingly weird end to your 2018 or beginning to your 2019. In any case, thanks for listening to the podcast this past year!! More great episodes coming soon in the new year!
Cymene and Dominic wonder whether there’s a holiday film out there that also addresses Anthropocene issues and wonder whether the Grinch was actually woke to climate change. Then (12:40) we welcome our good friend Rhys Williams, from the University of Glasgow, to the podcast to talk to us about the emerging genre of solarpunk fiction. We start with the basics: what solarpunk is, what its origins are, and why its online community is just as interesting as its literary products if not more so? Rhys explains what’s punk about the movement’s unapologetically optimistic take on the future despite our dark times. We talk speculative worlds, glowing aesthetics, the work of light and the joy of community. Rhys explains why he thinks it’s important for energy humanities to move “outside the text” and also to take fantasy seriously. We then explore some solarpunk narratives that Rhys finds particularly compelling and discuss how the stories exert agency beyond themselves. In closing, Rhys offers suggestions as to where get started with your own exploration of the solarpunk canon. Wishing much holiday merriment to all listeners great and small!
Dominic and Cymene wonder whether there isn’t some way to make the academic job market experience slightly less spirit-killing on this week’s podcast. Then (14:36) we are most fortunate to get U Michigan anthropologist Jason De León (http://undocumentedmigrationproject.com) on the phone to talk about his book The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail (U California Press 2015) and its exploration of “desert necroviolence” in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. We talk about the long-standing U.S. “prevention through deterrence” border policy, its use of landscape as weapon, how multispecies relations and nonhuman forces factored so significantly into the story of migration he wanted to tell, and whether the Trump regime has altered previous patterns of necroviolence. We discuss governmental discourse on the desert as killer, the materiality and industry of undocumented border migration, the phenomenology of migration and why migrants often say it’s impossible to go back. We ask Jason how climate change is figuring into his current comparative work on undocumented migration and he explains how the film Sleep Dealer may be more than science fiction. We close by talking about his new photoessay project on Honduran smugglers and hypermasculinity and why working with artistic collaborators is such an important strategy for reaching a wider public.
Dominic and Cymene talk about gloomy climate news and dogs that can judge the goodness in human souls on this week’s podcast. Then (19:16) we catch up with environmental artist Maria Whiteman at her residency at the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University. We engage several of her art projects from the past decade and talk about touching as a way of remembering, what fascinates her about animals and landscapes, tactile encounters with taxidermy, the impact of the deaths of Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, truckstops as muses, and finally her current work with fungi as proxies for thinking about climate change and the Anthropocene. Check out all of Maria’s work at http://maria-whiteman.squarespace.com
Cymene and Dominic rediscover the Violent Femmes on this week's podcast and that prompts a discussion of the best albums of all time. We then (18:54) welcome American U’s Evan Berry to the podcast, author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism (U California Press, 2015) and the PI of a Luce Foundation funded project on “Religion and Climate Change in Cross-Regional Comparison.” We start with the Pope and his views on climate change and then quickly move on to Evan’s argument that much apparently secular environmentalist thinking has deep affinities with Christian theology. We revisit Lynn White’s famous argument that Christianity devalues nature, discuss the need to move past “great man” narratives of the evolution of environmentalism, and ruminate on what 19th century Christian environmentalists considered to be the “moral salubriousness of nature.” Evan shares his thoughts on how Protestant nominalism may have informed American climate denialism over time and also about how walking as a form of “recreational salvation” became linked to the valorization of wilderness. We discuss whether American Christianity is exceptional in terms of climate morality and why American political culture has become an incubator for religious radicalism. We then turn to how climate change is now impacting religious systems across the world and how better intergenerational ethics might teach us to think collectively rather than individually. Finally, we discuss another recent book project Evan has undertaken with Rob Albro, Church, Cosmovision, and the Environment: Religion and Social Conflict in Contemporary Latin America (Routledge 2018).
Dominic and Cymene talk urban turkey encounters on this week’s edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast. With multispecies on our minds, we then (8:59) check in with Dartmouth’s Laura Ogden. We begin with her experience growing up in the Everglades and how it sparked a life long interest in multispecies relations and the hidden histories of landscapes often regarded as “wilderness.” We touch on her 2011 book Swamplife and talk alligator subjectivity, their relations with humans and the special challenges of thinking about predator-predator relations within multispecies ethnography. Laura gives us her take on the environmental challenges facing swamplife in the Everglades today and then we turn to her current work on invasive species in Tierra del Fuego. We hear how Peronism brought Canadian beavers to Argentina and how their spread into Chile helped her to rethink species assemblages. We talk about Laura’s collaborations with feminist performance artists and ecologists, why she thinks the term “resilience” is an anti-politics machine, and the first environmentalist victory in Chilean history. We close by discussing her current book project, Loss and Wonder at the World’s End.
California is burning again. So, in solidarity, Cymene and Dominic try to do an intro segment with N95 masks on and quickly realize this isn’t a good way to have to live. To learn more about the evolving field of wildfire management we then (13:40) chat with the amazing Adriana Petryna from U Penn. First we ask how a nice anthropologist like her became famous for studying disasters like Chernobyl. We discuss how she came to her concept of “biological citizenship” and her thinking about risk. That gets us back to wildfires and Adriana’s interest in scientific responses to our unpredictable climate. We get into how current models of fire suppression and prevention are deteriorating as fires become more unpredictable and as firefighters resist the idea that they become a military force tasked with fighting nature. Adriana describes the situation of responding to a changing climate as though it is not changing as “diligent insanity.” We then talk about how denialism is often linked to the idea that we’re protected (by a cult of first responders); about fire as a non-linear process; and about the need to update models of fire behavior to take “new fire” and new fuels into account. Finally. Adriana shares her thoughts on “retreat” as analytic and possible new mode of biopolitics in the Anthropocene. Want to read more? Check out Adriana’s brand new article on wildfires in Cultural Anthropology:https://culanth.org/articles/977-wildfires-at-the-edges-of-science-horizoning-work
Cymene and Dominic get their mojo back as they dip their toes into the blue wave. Then (13:12) we connect with Anne Galloway about her life and work as a scholar and a farmer. We start with Anne’s thoughts on how raising sheep as a farmer has made her part of a flock and how the complexity of those relations have changed how she thinks about the Anthropocene, in particular about death. Anne answers the question, “Can you kill something you love?” and this gets us to talking about ethics, responsibility and kinship in our relations with “livestock animals.” Anne explains why she finds it problematic that academics and activists often equate all animal husbandry with industrial farming practices. We talk about catching flak from farmers as well as academics, about companionate animals named and unnamed, the key characteristics of sheepishness, and turn from there to Anne’s interests in ethnographic and speculative design and her plan to do a second doctorate in creative writing. We close by wondering whether Anne has any chance of getting her sheep into Peter Jackson’s next Tolkien adaptation.
Cymene and Dominic recap their Halloween on this week’s episode of the podcast and plug the spooky new Cultural Anthropology series, “Time of Monsters,” (https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1584-time-of-monsters). Then (15:59) with many eyes on next week’s U.S. midterm election, Paige West joins us in the studio to process the social and environmental stakes of our contemporary political situation. We talk about slogging through the past two years of Trumpism, the resurgence of interest in local politics, the politicization and erasure of climate issues in the U.S., and how much New Yorkers are still paying attention to climate change years after Hurricane Sandy. A frank conversation follows about what climate-minded scholars can really do to help in these political times and about the need to experiment with new media for public communication to help us find wider audiences. We consider whether we can assemble a coalition of scholars who will pledge to give free lectures on climate change at community colleges around the country. What do you think dear listeners? Would you join us? We close with the indigenous hip hop scene that is better than the punk renaissance we dreamed of in 2016. And we promise Paige an owl. PS You can listen to the Snotty Nose Rez Kids on Soundcloud at: https://soundcloud.com/snottynoserezkids
Dominic tries to sing Ted Cruz out of office on this week’s podcast and retells a story about the senator’s dirty shirt. Then (14:59) fellow anthropologist and environmental humanities podcaster Tim Neale (of Deakin University) joins us from the future in Melbourne. With him we review their very successful recent Anthropocene Campus and its effort to think deep thoughts and deep time through the lens of the elements while visiting exotic local Anthropocene sites like Melbourne’s “poo farm.” We then return to Tim’s own work and talk through his recent book, Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia (U Hawaii Press, 2017) which traces the rise and fall of Australia’s Wild Rivers Act and the ways in which the aestheticization of environment can contribute to the dispossession of indigenous peoples. We talk about effort to include and exclude rivers and aboriginal peoples from settler liberal politics, the impact of the 1992 Mabo Decision and the negotiation of usufructuary rights, why the Wild Rivers Act was eventually repealed and with what legacy. We then turn to Tim’s new research on fire management, carbon storage and risk modeling in Australia and close by plugging Tim’s own excellent podcast, anthropology@deakin, which you can find at https://soundcloud.com/user-910866758 PS American citizens, please don’t forget to vote!!
Dominic and Cymene talk foot injuries, bears, and a project called "smell my box." We then (15:52) welcome to the podcast the marvelous Caroline Jones from MIT who talks about her amazing research and curatorial work on bioart, biofiction, psychology, phenomenology, neuroscience and much much more. We start with her provocative concept of “symbiontics” which points toward a change of human consciousness necessary for our survival as a species. She tells us about the works of artists like Jenna Sutela, Tomás Saraceno and Annicka Yi who have helped inspire her symbiontic thinking. We talk cultural evolution, survival of the most interdependent as an alternative to survival of the fittest, art as philosophy and politics, feminist bacteria, and the ethics of interspecies art. We turn from there to her current collaboration with historian of science Peter Galison on visibility and invisibility in the Anthropocene. We close on cybernetics, the idea that consciousness doesn’t stop at the limits of the individual mind and what we could learn from splicing a bit of sequoia genetic material into our own.
We get to hear about Cymene’s mod years and her experience this week with “cat therapy.” And then (14:06) Dominic speaks with Cambridge environmental historian Paul Warde about his new book, The Invention of Sustainability: Nature and Destiny, ca. 1500-1870 (Cambridge UP 2018) which traces our contemporary interest in sustainable futures back to the concerns and inventions of early modern politics and economy. We start with the endemic problems of sustenance and fuel that were much on the mind of early modern European government and how they helped to shape future resource provision into a durable political problem. Paul explains how also changing was the idea that government should be responsible for resource provision in the first place and how this suggests that sustainability is an intrinsic feature of modern politics rather than a problem that is likely to be solved through particular policy interventions. We talk intergenerational ethics, the circumstances surrounding the transition from wood fuel to coal, the rise of a concept of “state” as autonomous political entity, the preoccupations of early political economy, early technoptimism, urbanization, metabolic rift and much more. We close with Paul’s thinking about energy policy today.
Dominic and Cymene talk about the country’s first robot sex brothel coming to Houston. And then (14:40) we welcome the amazing Cara Daggett to the podcast. Cara has an amazing book in press with Duke that everyone should pre-order. It’s entitled The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics and the Politics of Work and it describes how the modern conceptualization of the term “energy” only came about during the Victorian period. Cara begins by explaining how Aristotle’s conceptualization of energy as “dynamic virtue” was different from our own imagination of the relationship of energy and work as having to do with moving matter. From there we move to exploring the labor/energy nexus that proved so vital to European modernity. We talk about what empire, evolutionary theory, Presbyterianism and thermodynamics contributed to Victorian thinking about energy. We turn to entropy, decay and waste and how Victorian energy imaginaries have been extended to include much discourse on renewable energy too. We make a brief detour through the Victorian Anthropocene before asking whether it is possible to unwind energy conceptually from a soul-crushing Protestant ethic of perpetual work. We close with a discussion of Cara’s recent article on petromasculinity and the misogyny of fossil fuel use and what it was like to become a target of radical right venom. What would a feminist energy system look like? Listen on!
This week’s episode starts with some serious reflections on cracked masculinity, misogyny, 1980s culture, and the Supreme Court. But in the spirit of demanding better worlds to come, we then (15:30) welcome Darin Barney (McGill U) and Imre Szeman (U Waterloo) to talk through how best to imagine and enact positive solar futures. We start with their planning for After Oil 2: Solarity, a conference that will take place at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (https://www.cca.qc.ca/en/) in Montreal May 23-25, 2019. Imre begins by walking us through logic behind the first edition of After Oil (http://afteroil.ca/what-is-aos/), which brought together forty people from diverse backgrounds to write a manifesto on life after petroculture. Darin then explains the concept for Solarity and how it seeks to push the speculative dimension of energy humanities farther in order to help break with the hegemony of various forms of petroknowledge. We talk about solarity as a zone of contestation, solarity as menace, solarity as emancipation from other social ills, and raise questions such as ‘what would solar theory look like?’ After hearing about their exciting plans for Solarity, we close by catching up with Imre and Darin about their own latest research projects. PS Go McGill for moving one step closer to fossil fuel divestment!
Cymene and Dominic debate whether dogs can have bullshit jobs on this week’s podcast. Then (13:46) we are most fortunate to welcome NYU’s Rosalind Fredericks to the podcast to talk about her brand new book, Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke U Press). But before getting there we ask Rozy why she thinks garbage/waste/discard studies are becoming so popular these days and what its lively interdisciplinary conversation is teaching us about value and materiality. Rozy tells us about how sanitation infrastructure first got her interested in understanding waste and how the trash strikes that took place during her fieldwork cemented her commitment to studying the politics and materiality of garbage in Dakar. We talk about the Set/Setal movement and how it utilized garbage work as a medium through which to revitalize Senegalese politics. From there we turn to the intersection of waste with Islamic ideas of purity and practices of piety, the political power of wastework, consumption and recycling, urbanization, climate refugeeism and the African Anthropocene. Rozy explains to us what she means by “vital infrastructures” and “salvage bricolage” as we turn to her new research on the work of trash reclaimers at one of Dakar’s largest dumps. We close with Rozy’s distant past life as a dumpster diver and her prize mini bottle collection.
Cymene and Dominic answer the timeless surrealist question, can raisins function as bait, on this week’s podcast. We then (9:20) welcome to the podcast Scotland’s finest son, Graeme Macdonald (currently on loan to Warwick) who explains first of all that he had nothing to do with the making of couscous sandwiches at Petrocultures 2018. But he does cop to enjoying very much working together with Janet Stewart and Rhys Williams on bringing that event to fruition. We then move on to more serious matters and Graeme tells us why he thinks interest in petrocultures is growing and how the energy humanities relate to the environmental humanities more broadly. That leads us to the entanglement of oil and modern fiction, whether there are different petrofictions in different places around the world, and if we need a new romanticism for the era of renewables. We then turn to science fiction in Scotland and its connection to the many terraforming projects that have occurred there; we talk post-oil dystopian fictions, hollow earth narratives, peat bogs and carbon sequestration, and the tensions surrounding decarbonization and Scottish devolution in the UK. We close on climate imaginaries and whether the Global North has made any progress in conceiving of post-carbon democratic life. This episode is brought to you by Buckfast Tonic Wine, the official irresponsible beverage decision of the Cultures of Energy podcast. Consider having one for the ditch but nae prezh!
On this week’s podcast, Cymene and Dominic recap their time at the marvelous Petrocultures 2018 event in Glasgow and tell tales of adventures with quinoa sandwiches and Buckfast, a curious liquor better known locally as “stab-yer-pal.” Then (13:25) we offer another edition of our Soylent Rainbow segment, talking classic ecofilms that you’ve recommended to us. This time it’s Alex Rivera’s 2008 cult film, Sleep Dealer, which brilliantly imagines a dystopian future of militarized water, reality TV drone killings and cyberlabor as the United States has invented a new way to exploit Mexican labor power without allowing workers’ bodies to cross borders. It’s a film in many ways ahead of its time that deserves a watch in 2018. We talk about its many strengths but also what we might do differently if the film were remade today. Speaking of which, Charlie Brooker, if you are out there, this is a Black Mirror episode waiting to happen!!
Dominic and Cymene report from Scotland where they have arrived for what looks to be an amazing Petrocultures 2018 event. Some talk of haggis and whiskey follows. But it’s also the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey back in Houston and to process how we feel about that (11:07) we invite our dear colleague, Lacy M. Johnson (http://www.lacymjohnson.com) into THE STUDIO to talk about where we find our heads at one year later. We talk about whether Harvey has shifted Houstonians’ willingness to accept climate change and Lacy talks about her own Harvey experience and how it motivated her to develop the Houston Flood Museum project, a virtual museum that launched this week (https://houstonfloodmuseum.org). Lacy explains why she thinks “discovery” might be a better way to think about life post-trauma rather than “recovery” and why it was compassion rather than strength that helped us through the disaster. We talk about her writing process and then turn from there to Lacy’s forthcoming book, The Reckonings (Simon & Schuster, http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Reckonings/Lacy-M-Johnson/9781501159008), a marvelous collection of essays. We spend a little extra time on her harrowing account of the 43,000 tons of nuclear waste that were dumped in a North St. Louis landfill in the 1970s and the smoldering underground fire that is edging ever closer to the site. In closing, Lacy explains why we need to give ourselves permission to feel joy in an imperfect world because joy is a form that justice takes.
Cymene and Dominic chat about the Wizard of Oz, unglacier tours, rocket toilets and motorized scooters to lead off this week’s podcast. Then (12:37) we are most fortunate to have the chance to talk about art and the Anthropocene with celebrated artist Judit Hersko (http://www.judithersko.com) who represented her native Hungary at the Venice Biennale in 1997. We talk about her earliest work about personal and collective memory and also her longstanding interests in phenomenology, materiality and lucidity and how all of these informed her later approaches to the intersection of art and science. That leads us to her trip to Antarctica and the adventures there—ranging from dinner with Prince Albert of Monaco to the aforementioned incinerator toilets—and what the whole experience taught her about the possibilities and limits of collaboration between art and science. And from there we move to the figure of the Unknown Explorer in her work and how it draws attention to the absence of women in polar history and science before the 1960s. We talk about her more recent projects thematizing Anthropocene phenomena such as oceanic acidification and atmospheric carbon and close with Judit’s advice to young artists to learn to meet your muse halfway.
Dominic and Cymene bask in 15 seconds of Icelandic limelight and discuss Madonna@60. Then (14:28) to celebrate the premiere of our film, “Not Ok: A Little Movie About a Small Glacier at the End of the World,” we whet your appetite with the full interview with brilliant Icelandic writer and filmmaker Andri Snaer Magnason—author of Dreamland (Citizen Press, 2006) and The Story of the Blue Planet (Seven Stories, 2000)—that we did for the film. In the interview, Andri and Cymene discuss his family’s close relationship to glaciers and what glaciers have meant to Icelanders in the past and more recently. They talk about geological time and human time, why we need to see oil, addiction to destruction, what Andri talked to the Dalai Lama about, the Big Melt and much more. Tomorrow’s the big day. Wish us luck, dear listeners!