May 25, 2017

Ep. #73 – Jennifer Wenzel

Dominic and Cymene talk about the carbon footprint of war, the best paper airplane design and map out an adventure to the center of climate change. Then (15:13) Jennifer Wenzel from Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature joins us to talk about her long and varied career in energy humanities. We start off with the ties between ecofeminism and energy humanities and her interest in oil’s place in society, bodies and literature. We talk about how to disenchant petromagic, the unrepeatable feat of cheap and easy energy, what Jennifer calls the “politics of the pedestrian,” how the Fueling Culture volume came together, and the importance of short form public writing for the humanities. Jennifer explains why she thinks we need to start popularizing “energy transition” as a concept alongside “climate change” and “global warming” to counteract public fatalism that there is no alternative to the status quo. Then we circle back to how Jennifer first became interested in energy through her work on West African novels and her frustration that literary criticism didn’t give her adequate tools to analyze what was happening in place like the Niger Delta. Jennifer emphasizes the need to think critically and comparatively about sites of extraction and our attachments to energy. And she shares her sense that an “energy unconscious” haunts cultural production in many parts of the world. Can energy humanities be a revitalizing engine for the humanities as a whole? Listen on!