CENHS has fellowship opportunities for both early career and senior scholars in the human sciences undertaking research on energy and environmental issues. Our principal fellowship program is the “Cultures of Energy” Postdoctoral Fellowship, now in its third year. We further routinely offer pre-doctoral fellowships to support early career energy and environmental research in the human sciences at Rice. We are also periodically able to invite distinguished scholars to join CENHS as Visiting Research Fellows for up to a semester. If you are interested in spending sabbatical time at CENHS or in joining our transnational research network, please contact the Director (dcb2@rice.edu) for more information.

Former Visiting Research Fellows:

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Jón Gnarr, Ex Mayor of Reykjavík (CENHS Writer-in-Residence, Spring 2015; Spring 2017)

Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) is delighted to announce that Icelandic writer, comedian and actor, Jón Gnarr, former Mayor of Reykjavík, served as the first CENHS Writer-in-Residence during Spring Semester 2015.

Gnarr returned to Houston in January 2017 as part of a new joint energy and environmental arts residency program established by Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) and the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

As part of the program, Gnarr gave a series of guest lectures at Rice and taught a screenwriting class at the University of Houston and served as the showrunner for a new TV series about climate change and Houston. He also developed a new TV series project, “Elves,” about the degradation of the Icelandic highlands.

Gnarr (b. 1967) was diagnosed as a child with severe mental retardation due to dyslexia, learning difficulties, and ADHD. He nevertheless overcame these hardships and went on to become one of Iceland’s best-known actors and comedians. In late 2009, in the bitter aftermath of Iceland’s banking crash, Gnarr founded “The Best Party” which sought to bring joy, humility and humanity back to Icelandic politics. Although dismissed as a “joke party” by the Icelandic political mainstream and national and international media, Gnarr’s ability to be equally sincere and satirical about his country’s political situation struck a chord with disillusioned and disoriented voters. The Best Party surprised all observers by winning the 2009 municipal elections in Iceland’s capital and Gnarr served as Mayor from 2010-2014.

With his mayoral years now behind him, Gnarr plans to continue writing and speaking on issues that are most important to him: freedom of speech, human rights, protecting the environment, and achieving international peace. Gnarr published the first two volumes in his fictionalized autobiography, The Indian, and The Pirate in 2006 and 2009 respectively. A third volume will be published in Iceland in fall 2014 and Dallas’s Deep Vellum will publish the trilogy in English in 2015-2016. He was also the subject of Gaukur Úlfarsson’s 2010 documentary, Gnarr. Gnarr writes, “I am very excited to come to Houston with my family and get the opportunity to work with the great people at Rice. I also see this as a chance for me to get first hand information about anthropogenic climate change and further my social and political studies. I look forward to sharing my story and experience with students and teachers and the public and to assist in any way I can.”

In addition to a staged reading of his play Hotel Volkswagen at Mildred’s Umbrella in January 2015, Gnarr made several appearances on campus at CENHS events while writing a book based on his mayoral experience provisionally titled, A Human’s Guide to Politics. He has even hinted at a longer stay in Texas, “At the end of my stay I just might run for Governor of Texas,” Gnarr writes, “We live at a very exciting time in history and I’m happy to be part of it. Looking forward to seeing y’all!”


James' Photo

James Maguire (Fall 2015)

James Maguire is conducting his PhD as part a broader research project, Alien Energy. With a master’s degree in anthropology, James is currently located at an interdisciplinary anthropology-STS department at the IT University of Copenhagen. His doctoral work focuses on the manner in which geothermal energy acts as one mediating force in the tumultuous relationship between the earth and socio-political processes in Iceland. 

While the lure of energy abundance continues to power Iceland’s desires of being an arctic energy powerhouse, the recent turn to geothermal energy production is fast becoming more problematic and politically contentious than at first conceived. Seen as a more environmentally friendly energy resource than hydro, the domestication of the intensive forces of the earth to power the aluminum industry has begun to trigger man made earthquakes and cool down volcanoes.   

James’ research is based upon 10 months of fieldwork in the Hengill volcanic zone in the south west of Iceland, where he divided his time working with geologists at Reykjavik energy and with energy protesters living in Hveragerði, a small town at the outskirts of the volcanic zone.

His publications include:

Virtual Fish and Property Concerns, in Gambling Debt: Iceland’s Rise and Fall in the Global Economy, editors Gisli Palsson and Paul Durrenberger, University Press of Colorado, 2015.

Prototyping Worlds: Emergent Technologies in the Aerial Age. In press at Encounters, the Danish Journal of Science and Technology.

Protesting Infrastructures: More-than-human Ethnography in Seismic Landscapes, submitted to Infrastructures and Social Complexity, editors Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen, Atsuro Morita.


karensmallProf. Karen Pinkus, Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University
CENHS Senior Research Fellow (Spring 2014)

Karen Pinkus is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University, where she is also a faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Karen has published widely in areas such as literary theory, visual theory, Italian culture, and film studies. In recent years she has felt a deep commitment to writing, teaching and thinking about climate change, in all of its unfathomable specificity. In addition to many articles, she has a new book, Fuel (U. of Minnesota Press, 2016), an attempt to think potentiality, separate from systems of energy. At Rice she planned to develop a digital project at the border between geology and cultural geography, focused on the differences that distinguish the subsurface (the place of fossil fuels; and possibly of carbon storage), the surface (the place of human dwelling), and atmosphere (the place of [invisible] carbon accumulation).



 Former “Cultures of Energy” Postdoctoral Fellows:

Gökçe Günel (2012-13)

Gökçe Günel received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University in 2012. Following her doctoral work, she became the first “Cultures of Energy” Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University and participated in the Rice Mellon-Sawyer Seminar that year, receiving further grants from the Rice University Social Science Research Institute and the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning. Her current book manuscript, tentatively titled “Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Green Business in Abu Dhabi,” focuses on the production of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in the United Arab Emirates, more specifically concentrating on the Masdar City project. Her research interests include social studies of energy and climate change, technological imaginaries, knowledge production, global governance and sustainable urbanism. During her doctoral studies, she was awarded a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, a Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, a SAGE Fellowship, as well as research grants from the Society for the Humanities and Einaudi Center for International Studies. Günel’s articles are published and forthcoming in Ephemera, Anthropology News, Public Culture, Anthropological Quarterly and PoLAR. Günel’s current position is ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Anthropology at Columbia University.


MSMDr. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (2013-15)

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson received his Ph.D. from the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2013, and his B.A. from Yale University in 2004.  His research concerns the social, cultural and political aspects of energy consumption and its environmental impacts, and he has published articles in journals such as Environmental Politics, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Radical History Review and American Studies.  In his forthcoming book, Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture (to be published by the University of Chicago Press in August 2015), he explores the American ‘peak oil’ movement in the context of contemporary responses to environmental crises (such as climate change), fossil fuel dependency and the spread of libertarian ideals throughout American political culture.  He was instrumental in creating a project on the absence of environmental justice in representations of climate change in literature and art and a public arts project, “Fossilized in Houston.”  At Rice he taught classes on the history of (un)sustainability, science fiction and the environment, and CENHS’s undergraduate course on the energy humanities; and blogging on this website.  You can find more info here.



Dr. Roy Scranton (Spring 2016)

Roy Scranton’s work focuses primarily on two subjects, increasingly interrelated: the social construction of war and the social implications of climate change. Roy completed a B.A. at the New School, an M.A. at the New School for Social Research, and a Ph.D. in the English at Princeton University. He is the author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization (City Lights, 2015), a book-length essay arguing for the fundamental importance of the humanities in facing and adapting to catastrophic climate change. Roy has published widely, including peer-reviewed articles in Contemporary Literature and Theory & Event, essays, feature articles, and reviews in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, and Bookforum, and fiction in LIT, Prairie Schooner, and Epiphany. In addition, he co-edited Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013), the preeminent literary anthology from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his novel War Porn is forthcoming from Soho Press in fall 2016. His dissertation, The Trauma Hero and the Lost War: World War II, American Literature, and the Politics of Trauma, 1945-1975, investigates the politics of trauma in World War II literature and explores the hero as metaphor in military-industrial capitalism. His research has been supported by the Princeton Program in American Studies, the New York Public Library, and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. While at CENHS, Roy began work on his next book project, Meditations in an Emergency, which will explore questions of agency, materiality, and the politics of embodiment in the “Atomic Anthropocene,” from the Trinity Test and Frank O’Hara’s “Biotherm” to Marxian ecology and #BlackLivesMatter.


Abby Spinak (2016-2017)

Abby Spinak studies energy history, with a particular interest in the politics of energy ownership and the role of infrastructure in disseminating economic ideas. Her current research ties the history of electrification in the rural United States to the evolution of twentieth-century American capitalism and alternative economic visions. At CENHS, she will be completing a book exploring how a cooperative business model became central to federal electrification policy in the 1930s; how a vast network of community owned and democratically managed utilities arose across the country, quickly and dramatically altering the American landscape; and how these urbanizing communities variously interpreted the political opportunities of community ownership at different moments over the past eighty years. Abby received her PhD in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT (2014) and was recently a Charles Warren Center Fellow in the History of American Capitalism at Harvard University (2015-2016).



Former Predoctoral Fellows

Hannah Biggs (2017-2018)

Hannah M. Biggs is a PhD candidate in English at Rice University. She is also a Civic Humanist Fellow at the Humanities Research Center and a faculty member at The Women’s Institute of Houston where she teaches film courses. Her dissertation, Regional, Agrarian Modernisms: Farming Fiction and Rural Modernity in 20th-century English and American Prose explores the role of agrarian settings in both high modernist and popular modernist-era novels while detailing the complicated relationships between the farmer, Edwardian estate gentleman, and other humans with their farm animals. Hannah wrote the critical introduction to Irvin S. Cobb’s The Abandoned Farmers (Hastings College Press), and her other work has (or will) appear in The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review, Amerikastudien / American Studies, Middle West Review, among others.


Trevor Durbin (2013-2014)

Trevor Durbin is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. His research is concerned with the perception and imagination of the environment, systems of expertise, bureaucratic practices, and the environmental futures of oceans, coasts and islands. His dissertation research focuses on the role of bureaucratic imaginations in three early-stage initiatives to re-spatialize the Pacific Ocean at massive scales and the political, socio-cultural, and personal frictions between, and within, biodiversity conservation, commercial fishing, deepsea mining, and sustainable development. His fieldwork ranged across Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, and Kiribati and moved between regional international agencies, national governments, and NGOs. He is currently drafting an article tentatively titled: “The Precautionary Principle-in-Action: Deep Sea Minerals Mining, Environmental Protection and Bureaucratic Practices in the Pacific Region and Beyond.” When he’s not writing, Trevor might be found wandering the Kansas prairie, dreaming of remote islands.



Blake Earle (2015-2016)

Blake Earle is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Rice University. His research concerns the intersection of the environment and American politics. Blake’s dissertation looks at the diplomatic and political implications of American cod fishing in the northwest Atlantic between the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris (1783) and the Halifax Fisheries Commission (1877). A central goal of this study is to describe the ways in which a resource, in this case cod and the men who fished them, became an important subject of transatlantic relations. He is also interested in the ways in which cod fishing was implicated in domestic politics, including how fish and fishermen were underappreciated elements of the schism that resulted in the American Civil War.


Maureen Haver (2015-2017)

Maureen Haver is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. Through a political anthropology lens, her research focuses on emergent narratives, discourses, and socio-political movements around climate change and energy policy in the United States with a specific focus on Alaska. More specifically, she studies sites of political resistance to climate mitigation/transition policies and a counter-advocacy that favors energy policies that recognize fossil fuels as key instruments for facilitating climate adaptation, addressing energy poverty, and guaranteeing labor. A primary goal of her research is to move past the polarization that characterizes much of the debate surrounding climate change and energy policy in the United States to develop a more nuanced understanding of the political, socio-cultural, and environmental consequences of fossil fuel reliance and the current frictions stressing the fault lines of ideology, economics, and identity in the U.S.


D. Andrew Johnson (2017-2018)

Andrew is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Rice University. His research focuses on the creation of enslaved societies in the colonial Atlantic. In particular, Andrew’s dissertation takes one British colony, South Carolina, and interrogates the social and cultural histories of enslaved peoples of African and Native American origin to reconsider the formation of a creole society of enslaved people. He also is the coeditor of a book project under consideration for publication entitled “Atlantic Environments and the American South,” which considers the largely unstudied intersections of Atlantic and environmental history.


Magnús Örn Sigurðsson (2016-2018)

Magnús is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. Broadly, he is interested in practices and discourses of climate change mitigation. More specifically, how nation states produce themselves as ethical subjects in terms of action on climate change, and how their responsibility of reducing emissions is distributed within society. Magnús focuses on Iceland as a nation state that produces renewable energy in abundance.


Eliot Storer (2015-2017)

Eliot Storer is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. His research engages environmental management, planetary thinking, and energy systems. Eliot’s dissertation research is a comparative study of emerging environmental interventions and technologies that attempt to solve global climate challenges, and that do not fit easily in established domains of climate change mitigation or adaptation. Eliot also helps co-facilitate the Ethnography Studio, an experimental, interdisciplinary center for ethnographic research on Rice’s campus.



Derek Woods (2012-2016)

Derek Woods is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Rice University. His research focuses on contemporary U.S. and Canadian literature, science and technology studies, and environmental humanities. Derek holds a doctoral research fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His dissertation research concerns postnatural ecological consciousness in twentieth century U.S. and Canadian literature. This topic stretches across three literary structures that are central to environmental aesthetics and ecological thinking: eco-paranoia, symbiosis, and the “mill-site,” where natural resources are transformed into commodities or media. Drawing on a background in biology at the University of British Columbia, he is also at work on a monograph concerning lichens, systems theory, and evolutionary symbiogenesis. His most recent publication, “Scale Critique for the Anthropocene” appears in the December 2014 issue of The Minnesota Review.