144 - Rosalind FredericksCultures of Energy add
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.
143 - Graeme MacdonaldCultures of Energy add
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!
142 - Sleep DealerCultures of Energy add
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!!
141 - Lacy M. JohnsonCultures of Energy add
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.
140 - Judit HerskoCultures of Energy add
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.
139 - Andri Snaer MagnasonCultures of Energy add
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!
138 - John Hartigan returns!Cultures of Energy add
Cymene and Dominic check in from Iceland on this week’s edition of the podcast and talk about the virtues of the Icelandic horse. Then (12:36) we welcome dear friend and horsexpert John Hartigan back to the podcast. We’ve come a long way since Episode 4 but it turns out John has been keeping pretty busy too. We start off with his new book, Care of the Species (U Minnesota Press, 2017) about human-maize relations and the science of plant biodiversity in Mexico and Spain. We talk about maize as an emblematic companion species as it both feeds and works humans on its own behalf, about John’s discovery that the concept of raza (race) was applied to non-humans long before humans, and what that implies for understanding the intersection of race and care today. This gets us to what nonhumans like sheep and cattle contributed to colonization, efforts to maintain plant biodiversity as a bulwark against the unknowns of climate change, the enduring power of taxonomical conceptions of species, plant sexuality under human care, and the modern tendency toward “plant blindness” in our relationship to the world. Finally, we do a lightning round of updates on John’s current suite of projects including an ethnography of the sociality of wild horses in Spain, a study of Peruvian bullfighting and a historical novel about the wreck of the Spanish armada in Ireland and the hidden cultural connection between Spain and Ireland that followed.
137 - Michael E. Mann & The TroubleCultures of Energy add
We start this week’s double episode on climate science and climate policy with ruminations on Trumpian arguments against fuel efficiency, Europe breaking its heat record, and what in retrospect were the breakthrough technological achievements of the 1970s—the Ronco inside the egg shell egg scrambler and the Popeil pocket fisherman. Then (14:04) we chat with star climate scientist Michael E. Mann. Mike brings us up to speed on the implications of the latest climate science and explains why the current attribution models connecting climate change to extreme weather events and sea level rise may be too conservative. We talk about the 20thanniversary of his famous “hockey stick” chart and how far we’ve come on climate adaptation since then. We turn from there to some of his recent projects branching out into new media ranging from his blog (http://michaelmann.net) to his much anticipated children’s book (The Tantrum that Saved the World)—a collaboration with author/illustrator Meg Herbert—and Mike tells us why he thinks scientists need to engage the public directly in an era of fragmented and often manipulated news media. We close by discussing why it’s so important to engage youth around climate issues and why We. All. Need. To. Vote. This. November. In our second segment (48:32) we check in with Soren Dudley and Johnathan Guy, two editors of an impressive brand new online magazine, The Trouble, which offers a forum for bringing together left political thinking and climate policy. Johnny and Soren explain why they think this intervention is so timely and necessary today, bringing together direct action spirit and wonky policy discussion. Please check out their excellent work at https://www.the-trouble.com, follow them @thetroublemag and, above all, send them love!
136 - Jennifer GabrysCultures of Energy add
Your cohosts discuss what sensory technologies they might wish for their own home and the kind of multispecies encounters Cymene might have had in a Tegucigalpa red light district hotel (trigger warning: there be cockroach stories ahead!) Then (20:29) we chat with the multitalented Jennifer Gabrys from Goldsmiths (https://www.jennifergabrys.net), author most recently of Program Earth (U Minnesota Press, 2016), and her fascinating work on the spread of environmental sensing technologies and the impacts they are having on our worlds. Jennifer explains to us why she became taken with Whitehead’s concept of the “superject” as a different, more distributed and relational way of thinking about sensation and experience. That gets us to talking about nonhuman modes of sensing, what humans want from all these sensors, the problem of environmentality in smart city designs, computational urbanism, and why the figure of the idiot interests her in terms of thinking about models of digital participation. Jennifer explains how we can be for a world (and for other worlds) rather than simply of the world and why the etho-ecological is thus such an interesting domain for her. In closing, we return to Jennifer’s pathbreaking work on digital waste and the need for electronic environmentalism and talk about the e-waste/energy nexus and the paradox of spending ever more energy to monitoring ourselves using more energy. Listen on!
135 - Christina CogdellCultures of Energy add
Cymene and Dominic talk surprising energy trends and how to make news more fun with games. Then (15:05) we talk with the marvelous Christina Cogdell from UC-Davis about her fascinating soon-to-be-published book, Toward a Living Architecture? Complexism and Biology in Generative Design (U Minnesota Press, https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/toward-a-living-architecture). We talk about how her background studying eugenics in the 1930s informed her interest in the interplay of architecture, biology and computational science in the emergent field she calls, “generative design.” We discuss what the growing interest in using living materials for architectural purposes might have to do with climate change, the relationship between complexity theory and eugenicism, the porting of natural systems models across the human sciences and why some in generative architecture actually oppose notions of “sustainability.” We turn from there to topics like eugenic algorithms, the idea that complexity is the key to the universe and living building projects from arborsculpture to bioprinting to genmod kudzu cities and beyond. Will buildings and other architectural objects need veterinarians in the future? Is Lamarckism making a comeback in generative design? This and many other questions will be covered in this week’s episode. Listen on! PS And check out Christina and her students’ amazing product life cycle website at: http://www.designlife-cycle.com
134 - Leo ColemanCultures of Energy add
Dominic and Cymene react to the new CENHS podcast studio and share a tale of robot sushi misadventure. Then (15:02) we welcome Leo Coleman (Hunter College) to the program and get right into his new book, A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi (Cornell U Press, 2017) and its exploration of the political and moral history of electricity in India since the early 20th century. We talk about how electricity unleashes the imagination of modern urban life, mundane uses vs. grand rituals of electrified power, and, apropos of the making of the postcolonial Indian state, Leo argues we need a more subtle understanding of Gandhi’s concerns about the ethical impact of electrification. We turn from there to what extent electricity reshaped India’s public sphere in the past, how the grid became an object of political concern, and whether the neoliberal era has brought new moralities of electricity to India. That brings us to the electronic and political dimensions of India’s new energy metering, biometric and surveillance projects. We close with Leo’s fascinating essay on the impact of electricity upon Durkheim’s thinking about morality and his new research on hydropower and equality in Scotland.
133 - María Puig de la BellacasaCultures of Energy add
Dominic and Cymene indulge a little post-Pruitt glee on this week’s podcast and speculate about the possibility of six foot tall low carbon lava lamps in the future. Then (16:46) we are thrilled to be joined by star STS scholar and emergent anthropologist María Puig de la Bellacasa to talk about her celebrated new book, Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start with the importance of care in feminist philosophy and how this work, alongside her own activist background, inspired this project. She asks us to consider how we can make knowledge that takes seriously a politics of care without giving ourselves over to the neoliberal commodification of care. And she asks how a commitment to speculative ethics can lead us to imagine and enact worlds different than the one we inhabit now. Later on, María tells us about what led her to quit philosophy and why appropriation might not actually be such a bad thing. Then we turn to her work with permaculturalists and soil scientists, what it was like to study with Starhawk, changing paradigms of soil ontology and ecology, what are alterbiopolitics, speculative ethics in a time of political crisis, and so much more.
132 - Jeffrey Jerome CohenCultures of Energy add
Cymene and Dominic debate the Pet Rock as a capitalist or proto-new-materialist venture on this week’s episode of the podcast. Then (16:59) we welcome to the podcast multitalented environmental humanist and soon-to-be decanal superstar Jeffrey Jerome Cohen from Arizona State. With Jeffrey we talk about unsustainably hot desert cities as harbingers of the future and then quickly get to his fascinating book Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (U Minnesota Press, 2015) and its exploration of litho-human relationships both medieval and modern. Jeffrey explains how his work seeks to appreciate medieval ways of knowing. He argues that they might help us to reinvigorate our way of understanding the world today—not least by conceiving lithic materials as something more than inert resources—and improve our ethics of relationality with the more-than-human world. We talk about stones as transport devices in human storytelling and as archives of catastrophe, the Noah’s Ark trope, and fire as elemental force, human companion, and challenge to think with. We then turn to Jeffrey’s work on monsters, but mostly as a pretense to get him to tell us his Pixar lawsuit story. Finally we discuss his most recent book, Earth(Bloomsbury, 2017), co-authored with planetary geologist, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, and how we might imagine human life as part of planetary life more widely. Wondering why monsters and aliens are green? Listen on!
131 - WaterworldCultures of Energy add
On this week’s podcast, in honor of the summer solstice we bring to you another edition of Soylent Rainbow, our occasional special feature talking ecopocalyptic films past and present. This time, we decided to revisit the 1995 Kevin Costner vehicle, Waterworld, to see if the critics of yesteryear were too harsh. Was Waterworld really ahead of its time in spotlighting climate change? We surface the energy and environmental themes of the film, muse on its clunky dialogue and nods to Greek mythology, and then talk recycling, colanders-as-hats, the charm and hokiness of non-CGI effects, “go juice,” “smeat,” the cameo of the Exxon Valdez, toxic masculinity and nuclear families and much more. Thanks to everyone who sent us suggestions! There were so many good ones, it was hard to choose and we’ll try to squeeze in more Soylent Rainbow episodes in the weeks to come :)
130 - Transhumanism (feat. Andrew Pilsch)Cultures of Energy add
On this week’s Cultures of Energy pod we discuss this week’s disturbing revelations concerning the toxic work environment at the journal HAU (3:04)—if you need/want to catch up on the story please check out @hilaryagro and footnotesblog.com—and discuss the wider implications for Open Access publishing in Anthropology. Then, after a brief detour through feats of superraccoon strength we turn (18:00) to imaginaries of the more-than-human as we welcome (21:01) Andrew Pilsch to the podcast to discuss his new book Transhumanism: Evolutionary Futurism and the Human Technologies of Utopia (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start by talking about the principal tenets of transhumanist thinking, as technological futurist movement and lifestyle brand and then get into the controversies surrounding transhumanism’s settler colonial and masculinist instincts and its impact upon Silicon Valley culture. We explore some of the evolutionary futurisms that predated transhumanism and ask whether computerization drove h+ thinking or vice-versa. We talk meme culture, ideas of the afterlife, Skynet, accelerationism, jetpack communism, and Andrew explains why feminist scholarship has been so important for his thinking about technological futurism. That leads us to xenofeminism and the effort to reclaim reason from patriarchal knowledge. And what Generation Z thinks of transhumanism. As Andrew says, just because things sound like crazy sci/fi ideas doesn’t make them less real. So if you care to upload your consciousness into our eternal cloud of reason, listen on!
129 - Juan SalazarCultures of Energy add
Live from Santa Cruz, CA, Cymene and Dominic cover the politics of homelessness, celebrity academic sightings, and the legacy of R.E.M. Then (13:01) anthropologist and filmmaker Juan Salazar joins us from the future (or at least Friday). We talk with him about his several currents projects related to climate change and Antarctica, including a comparative project on Antarctica’s “gateway cities” (Capetown, Christchurch, Hobart, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia) and how they are creating a new urban culture facing South rather than North. We discuss how climate change has generated unprecedented attention in the Antarctic and Juan explains how he became interested in charting “anticipatory modes of futuring” through media ranging from documentaries to museums to games. That leads us to his film Nightfall on Gaia (https://vimeo.com/117241386) and to why he thinks anthropological theory has not sufficiently engaged the problem of the future in recent years. Juan talks us through his filmmaking process, how he bridges the ethnographic and speculative dimensions of the work, and what he finds problematic in Antarctica films like Werner Herzog’s, Encounters at the End of the World. We turn then to Antarctica as an extraterrestrial space and close by talking about new projects including one concerning the longest bamboo bridge in the world and another about the rise of environmental insecurity following the peace process in Colombia.
128 - Bethany WigginCultures of Energy add
Cymene and Dominic talk about climate despair and climate violence on this week’s edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast, and on a lighter note, a perfect 48 hours in Santa Cruz, CA, in 1986. Then (14:56) we are delighted to welcome superhero humanist Bethany Wiggin to the podcast. Bethany directs the marvelous Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (http://www.ppehlab.org), co-founded Data Refuge (https://www.datarefuge.org) and the Schuylkill River & Urban Water Research Corps (http://www.schuylkillcorps.org) and, when she’s not caping up to save the planet, Bethany is a mild-mannered Germanist researching and writing about novels and cultural translation, among other things. In the conversation we cover her current and future projects, highlighting especially the importance of pursuing utopias and ecotopian experiments in dark times, the need to care for ugly places, the importance of systems interdisciplinarity, data as a living organism, object biographies, and the logistics of teaching in boats. Bethany gives us a preview of her next book, Utopia Found, Lost, and Re-Imagined in Penn’s Woodsand discusses her comparative research on Rising Waters. Why do Germanists keep founding environmental humanities initiatives? We crack that case wiiiide open this week. Listen on! PS Check out the website for the new Anthropocene Unseen lexicon at: https://punctumbooks.com/titles/anthropocene-unseen-a-lexicon/ PPS This week’s cover image is from Jacob Rivkin’s Floating Archives project. Jacob is currently artist-in-residence at PPEH.
127 - Ancient Civilizations & Climate Change (feat. Hervé Reculeau)Cultures of Energy add
Dominic and Cymene wish Westworld was better on this week’s episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast and then dry their tears with the news that the trailer and website for the “Not Ok” film has launched. Please check it out at https://www.notokmovie.com. We then (12:16) welcome University of Chicago historian Hervé Reculeau to the podcast to talk about how Bronze Age civilizations in Mesopotamia coped with climate change. Hervé explains how recent attention to paleoenvironmental evidence has helped to disrupt and complexify narratives of civilizational health and collapse in the region. That gets us to his research on irrigation as a tool against advancing aridification and why massive infrastructure projects of the period may have had very little impact. We talk about the ways in which past civilizational collapses are being mobilized now as commentaries upon our present ecological crises and Hervé cautions against projecting our own environmental problems on to ancient societies. Did ancient societies have conceptions of “climate” at all? Can understandings of “climate change” coexist with weather gods? Listen on and find out!
126 - Jaume FranquesaCultures of Energy add
Cymene and Dominic talk air pollution and bumper stickers on this week’s ozone action edition of the podcast. Then (9:19) we are happily joined by fellow wind power enthusiast Jaume Franquesa (SUNY-Buffalo) to talk about his brand new book, Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain (Indiana U Press, 2018), which focuses on Southern Catalonia to tell a broader story about the politics of renewable energy transition in Spain (and beyond). We discuss the diverse energy landscape of the region and how legacies of nuclear energy and anti-nuclear activism came to shape wind power’s adoption. Jaume discusses the radical cooperativist roots of Spanish wind power and also how it was metabolized over time by energy corporations, an electric oligopoly and the state to create a more extractivist model of aeolian politics. We turn from there to the invisibilization of energy production and its consequences for energy frontiers as well as how agrarian and industrial imaginations compete in Catalonia, a place long projected as both a terroir of luxury goods and a wasteland in need of modern development. Jaume explains how the separation of country and city helps support capitalist accumulation and we close by exploring the importance of dignity and indignation in the resistant subjectivity of Catalonia. Can we challenge the idea that political inventiveness only emerges in cities? Listen on and find out!
125 - Displacements Recap (w. Anand Pandian, Andrea Muehlebach & Marcel LaFlamme)Cultures of Energy add
This week’s podcast is devoted to discussing a prototype for making academic conferences less carbon intensive and more accessible to our colleagues outside the global North. Case in point is last month’s remarkably successful Displacements conference (https://displacements.jhu.edu) organized by the Society for Cultural Anthropology which broke all previous SCA records for contributions and participation because of its unique hybrid format of online screenings and in person gatherings at fifty sites across the world. Gathered together (13:18) to discuss how it all went down and what it meant are chief conference organizer Anand Pandian (Johns Hopkins), operations guru Marcel LaFlamme (Rice) and Andrea Muehlebach (U Toronto) who organized one of the most active gatherings in Toronto. We talk about frustrations with conventional conference formats, how to create a synchronous sense of eventness across the world, the challenges of accessibility and decarbonization, whether Displacements was really more of a distributed festival and how to unlock the artistic potential in scholarship. We close with a discussion of how simple folk like our listeners could start their own Displacements-style projects for as little as a hundred bucks. The low carbon academic revolution is coming!