Image credit: Léna Ferrié
Aesthetic and Social Constructions of Energy Transition
22 January 2024
Image credit: Léna Ferrié
Dominic BOYER
Rice University, USA
Author of:
Learning to Live in 3D: Decarbonization, decoupling and degrowth
In this talk, I discuss the evolution of the high energy growth paradigm of northern modernity through the overlapping energy regimes of new world plantations (sucropolitics), machinic industrialism (carbopolitics) and plastic mobilization (petropolitics) to help identify some of the key areas of intervention for what I term “decompositional politics” (Boyer 2023). Then I turn to a discussion of three key frontlines of decompositional politics today: decarbonization (decomposing the sucro/carbo/petrostate), degrowth (decomposing habits and systems of productivity-for-its-own-sake) and decoupling, which is, in many respects, the most paradoxical and elusive of the three projects. On the face of things, decoupling seeks to emancipate high energy modernity from its burden of ecological unsustainability while promising at the same time to justly secure the pleasures and luxuries of high energy modernity for all. It sounds too good to be true and indeed recent studies cast serious doubt on the reality of decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions. Is this simply another seductive petrocultural mirage? Perhaps. But it is intriguing that some of the more persuasive degrowth proponents seem to see decoupling as a real possibility under the right circumstances. One striking consonance between decompositional and degrowth politics is the belief that a low energy modernity is not only possible but scalable and sustainable.
Forgetting Fossils, Figuring Futures
Lucie de Carvalho
University of Lille
Katja Lindskog
Yale University
Graeme Macdonald
University of Warwick
Katie Ritson
Rachel Carson Center

Format  Zoom Webinar

Date  Monday 22 January 2024

Time  16:00 – 18:00 (GMT / London)

               17:00 – 19:00 (CET / Oslo; Paris)

               11:00 – 13:00 (EST / New York)

               08:00 – 10:00 (PST / Los Angeles)

Cost  Free

The ASCET (Aesthetic and Social Constructions of Energy Transition) Project examines the representation of climate emergency and energy transition in arts, literature, and media, exploring the interactions between word and image, the political and cultural aims underlying different representations, and the potential legitimization of renewable energy. How do hydropower plants and wind farms alter and inform our perceptions of coastal and marine space? How are artists, writers, energy companies and governments reconfiguring their representational practices in an era of energy transition, one that engenders a markedly different temporal and cultural construction of the space we live in? In particular, ASCET aims to:
  • promote an aesthetic transition that would facilitate energy transition at the local, national, and international levels
  • theorise aestheticized perceptions that can collapse the Manichean dichotomization of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ technologies, progress and stagnation, technophobia and techno-utopianism
  • design and disseminate educational resources and open science materials
Visit the ASCET Project homepage for more information.
Dominic Boyer
Rice University, USA
Dominic Boyer is an anthropologist, media maker and environmental researcher who teaches at Rice University where he helped shape the interdisciplinary field of Energy Humanities. Recent books include Energopolitics (Duke UP, 2019), which analyzes the politics of wind power development in Southern Mexico and Hyposubjects (Open Humanities Press, 2021), an improvisational philosophical collaboration with Timothy Morton concerning politics in the Anthropocene. With Cymene Howe, he made a documentary film about Iceland’s first major glacier (Okjökull) lost to climate change, Not Ok: a little movie about a small glacier at the end of the world (2018). In August 2019, together with Icelandic collaborators they installed a memorial to Okjökull’s passing, an event which caused The Economist to create their first-ever obituary for a non-human. His most recent book is titled No More Fossils (U Minnesota Press, 2023) a discussion of fossil fuel fossils and what is to be done about them.
Lucie de Carvalho
University of Lille

Lucie de Carvalho earned her PhD in British history and politics at the University of La Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 in 2015. Her doctoral work focused on British nuclear power policies since the 1980s, the subject of her first monograph British Nuclear Power Policies: The Quandaries of Neoliberalism (Anthem Press, 2022). The study of nuclear power as a multi-facetted technopolitical, social, and cultural object has led her to explore various, complementary research avenues, including contemporary British energy and climate governance, private/public relations in the UK energy sector, but also representations of nuclear risks in news reporting or scientific documentaries, or popular perceptions and representations of the ‘nuclear culture’ in Britain more broadly. She is currently editing a collective volume on the social acceptance of the energy transition in Europe and North America, jointly with Jean-Daniel Collomb and Christophe Roncato.

Katja Lindskog
Yale University, USA

Katja Lindskog holds a joint appointment as a Lecturer in the Department of English and the Humanities Program at Yale University. Before arriving at Yale, she was a Core Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University. Since 2019, she serves as the Program Director for the Directed Studies Program at Yale, while also designing and teaching interdisciplinary courses on climate change, the environmental humanities, and nineteenth-century literature. During 2022–2023, she was a Whitney Humanities Center Fellow, appointed by Yale’s President to explore research and teaching across disciplinary boundaries.

Her current research focuses on the ways in which we can contextualize British nineteenth-century literature within the onset of the Anthropocene era and the present-day climate crisis, particularly through our past and present relationship to fossil capital in its many forms. Broadly speaking, she hopes to expand the parameters for what constitutes useful ecocriticism in the study of Victorian literature and culture.

She is currently working on an essay about Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times, as well as drafting a book manuscript about ecocriticism provisionally titled That Future Is Now: Ecocriticism in the Age of Climate Change.

Graeme Macdonald
University of Warwick, UK

Graeme Macdonald is Full Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. He teaches and researches on speculative fiction, Petrocultures and energy humanities and climate imaginaries. Recent editorial work includes the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Energy Humanities (2024) and SI journal collections “Food Futures” (Science Fiction Studies 2022), “Powering the Future: Energy Resources in Science Fiction and Fantasy” (OLH 2019) and “Environment, Ecology and ‘Nature’ in 21st Century Scottish Literature” (Humanities 2021). He is co-author, with the WReC collective, of Combined and Uneven Development: Toward a New Theory of World Literature (2015). A member of the Petrocultures Research Group, he is also collective author of After Oil (2016) and Solarities (2022). He has recently been CI on the FORMAS funded research project: “Climaginaries: narrating socio-cultural transitions to a post-fossil society” and the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s “Connecting with a low-carbon Scotland” project. He has this year been co-creator with the artist Paul Lemmon, of a speculative art work on energy transition, ‘Memories of a Future City’, exhibiting at Coventry Biennial. Currently working on a monograph on “Petroliteratures: Writing After Oil”.

Katie Ritson
Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society, Germany

Katie Ritson is research fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society and affiliated researcher in the Institute for Nordic Philology at LMU Munich. Her project Offshore: Energy Cultures of the North Sea, funded by the German Research Foundation, explores the cultural impact of oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, focusing particularly on Scotland and Norway. She is a member of the international Petrocultures Research Group and she is affiliated with the project Translatability of Oil: Critical Petro-Aesthetics at Work at the University of Oslo. Katie studied German, Comparative Literature, and Scandinavian Studies in Cambridge and Munich, completing her doctoral degree at LMU Munich in 2016.