Geography

Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer on Writing a Duograph

howeboyerCymene Howe and Dominic Boyer are the authors of Wind and Power in the Anthropocene, a duograph in two volumes: Ecologics and Energopolitics. In this guest post, they explain just what a duograph is and how they came to write one.

 Winds of Desire

Few people realize that the wind that cuts across southern Mexico is among the best in the world for generating immense quantities of renewable electricity. Nor is it common knowledge that Oaxaca’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec has become home to the densest concentration of wind parks anywhere in the world. In our research, we wanted to understand the powers of that wind—its ability to shape political debates, to twist the direction of species, to designate economic prospects, to carve out new relations between indigenous peoples, to overturn semitrucks and to condition the future. In the Isthmus there is no escaping the wind. But, there are divergent ideas about how to best capture it, mold its kinetic intensities, and harness its potential. There are also real questions as to whether the wind, in itself, can or should be captured at all.

Our anthropological research set out to address a central question of Anthropocenic times: How will low-carbon energy transition take place and what occurs in those transitions? Who is allowed to set the agenda and who—human and otherwise—is affected? And finally, what are the political, social and elemental forces that shape the imaginaries for low-carbon energy futures?  Over the course of sixteen months of fieldwork, we spoke with representatives of every group of “stakeholders” in wind development in Mexico: community members and corporate executives; federal, state, and local government officials and NGO staff; industry lobbyists and anti-wind power activists; conservationists and media professionals; indigenous rights advocates, bankers, and federal judges.

We arrived at and left fieldwork as committed advocates for low-carbon energy transition. But our experiences in Mexico taught us that renewable energy can be installed in ways that do little to challenge the extractive logics that have undergirded petromodernity. Renewable energy matters, but it matters how it is brought into being and what forms of consultation and cooperation are used. We came to see that “wind power” has no singular form or meaning. Everywhere it was a different ensemble of force, matter, and desire—inherently multiple and turbulent.

To (try to) capture wind and power: a duograph

The traditional academic monograph is familiar to many readers. With Wind and Power in the Anthropocene we wanted to try something different. We call it a “duograph”: two single-authored volumes that draw from a shared research project and archive. Each volume of the duograph details different case studies and follows distinct lines of inquiry and theoretical travel. Collaborative research and writing are nothing new in anthropology and while coauthoring offers many opportunities to learn through dialogue, it also involves compromises and ultimately, a synthetic voice and direction. We wanted to experiment with a new form. Our two volumes of the duograph speak in parallel, but not always in unison.

Ecologics Ecologics, by Cymene Howe, follows the aspirations of a giant wind park destined for the isthmus, one that would have been the largest of its kind in all of Latin America, promising immense reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and opportunities for local development. Between the distinct imaginaries of environmental care and environmental harm the deeply relational qualities of energy and environment come into focus, illustrating that the dynamics of energy transition cannot be captured without understanding how human aspirations for energy articulate with or against nonhuman beings, technomaterial objects, and the geophysical forces that are at the center of wind power.

EnergopoliticsEnergopolitics, by Dominic Boyer, engages the case of Mexican wind power to develop an anthropological theory of political power for use in the Anthropocene anchored by discussions of “capital,” “biopower,” and Dominic’s own neologism, “energopower.” At the same time, the volume emphasizes the analytic limitations of these conceptual minima when confronted with the epistemic maxima of a situation of anthropological field research on political power. Those maxima not only exceed the explanatory potential of any given conceptual framework, they also resolutely demand the supplementary analytic work of history and ethnography. Energopolitics is thus an urgent invitation for Anthropocene political theory to un-make and remake itself through the process of fieldwork and ethnographic reflection.

We invite our readers to read these volumes synchronously, or not—to think of them as a Choose-your-own-Adventure trip, or to follow a character, human or otherwise. You are invited to riddle through the knots of aeolian politics or become absorbed in the meaning of trucks. Or, to perhaps pause for a minute to see the istmeño sky: filled with birds by day, bats by night and turbines for the foreseeable future.

Cymene Howe is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and author of Intimate Activism: The Struggle for Sexual Rights in Postrevolutionary Nicaragua. Dominic Boyer is Professor of Anthropology at Rice University, Founding Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS), and author of The Life Informatic: Newsmaking in the Digital Era. They also co-host a weekly podcast, Cultures of Energy, featuring discussions on innovative scholarship, activism and art making around issues of environment and energy.

Hydro-criticism

The newest issue of English Language Notes, “Hydro-criticism,” edited by Laura Winkiel, is available now.

coverimageAs sea levels rise, ice caps melt, and the ocean acidifies, the twin forces of globalization and global warming have irrevocably braided human-centered history with the geologic force of the ocean. This reality has broadly challenged those working in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to fundamentally alter the ways in which they produce knowledge.

Contributors to this issue interrogate the methods of humanities’ recent oceanic turn—grouped here under the rubric of “ocean studies”—by reimagining human histories, aesthetics, and ontologies as entangled with the temporal and spatial scales, geographies, and agencies of the ocean.

Topics include the representations of the sea and related technologies in 1950s films; multiple accounts of the ocean’s role as a mediator of power, colonization, and censorship; queer eroticism and the ocean; literature’s shifting account of seafaring in the modernist period and today; and the strange conundrum of T. S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages” as an inspiration for modern radical Caribbean scholars.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, freely available.

The End of Area

The newest special issue of positions: asia critique, “The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History,” edited by Gavin Walker and Naoki Sakai, is now available.

pos_27_1_coverAs the two universal forms of capitalism—the commodity and the nation-state—expand globally, and as technological innovation and cultural exchange challenge borders and national identities, traditional ideas of what constitutes “area” and “area studies” have become increasingly irrelevant. Yet despite critiques, area studies persists today, even as history renders it more and more obsolete.

Contributors to “The End of Area” explore what area studies can do when its object, “area,” detaches from the realm of geopolitics and enters also into the realm of biopolitics. This issue centers translation and the biopolitical as new theoretical mechanisms for area studies to order, combine, separate, and classify life.

Read the introduction, freely available, and browse the table of contents.

The Global South: Histories, Politics, Maps

m_rhr_18_131_coverThe Global South: Histories, Politics, Maps,” a special issue of Radical History Review, offers a range of perspectives on the intellectual formation of the global South. Spanning time periods and objects of study across the global South, the essays develop new theoretical frameworks for thinking about geography, inequality, and subjectivity. Contributors investigate the construction of gender and racial formation in the global South and explore what is politically and theoretically at stake in considering under-studied places like Guyana or peripheries like Melanesia. One essay considers how encounters between spaces in the global South, specifically between Lebanon and West Africa, help to redirect attention from the northern nations’ preoccupations with their former colonies to the frictions of decolonization. Several articles focus on the role of popular culture in regard to the geopolitical formation of the global South, with topics ranging from film to music to the career of Muhammad Ali. Read the introduction to the issue, freely available now.

978-0-8223-6991-2Contributors to this Radical History Review issue include Emily Callaci, whose recent book Street Archives and City Life maps a new terrain of political and cultural production in mid- to late twentieth-century Tanzanian urban landscapes. While the postcolonial Tanzanian ruling party (TANU) adopted a policy of rural socialism known as Ujamaa, an influx of youth migrants to the city of Dar es Salaam generated innovative forms of urbanism through the circulation of what Callaci calls street archives: popular texts including women’s Christian advice literature, newspaper columns, self-published pulp fiction novellas, and song lyrics. Through these textual networks, Callaci shows how youth migrants and urban intellectuals fashioned a collective ethos of postcolonial African citizenship, ushering in an urban revolution in spite of the nation-state’s pro-rural ideology.

New Books in April

 April brings a fresh crop of great new books. Check out what we’re releasing this month.

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In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson draws on a decade of fieldwork at Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle to show how congregants became entangled in a process of religious conviction through which they embodied Driscoll’s teaching on gender and sexuality in ways that supported the church’s growth.

In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado explores how Latino artists and cultural producers have developed and deployed an irreverent aesthetics of abjection to resist assimilation and disrupt respectability politics.

Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake outlines the environmental history and politics of Mexico City as it transformed its original forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity, showing how the scientific and political disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering led to the city’s unequal urbanization and environmental decline.

In Domesticating Democracy Susan Helen Ellison offers an ethnography of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) organizations in El Alto, Bolivia, showing that by helping residents cope with their interpersonal disputes and economic troubles how they change the ways Bolivians interact with the state and global capitalism, making them into self-reliant citizens.

978-0-8223-7081-9.jpgKatherine Verdery’s My Life as a Spy analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was embedded in everyday life.

 In Edges of Exposure, following Senegalese toxicologists as they struggle to keep equipment, labs, and projects operating, Noémi Tousignant explores the impact of insufficient investments in scientific capacity in postcolonial Africa.

 

Examining human rights discourse from the French Revolution to the present, in Human Rights and the Care of the Self Alexandre Lefebvre turns common assumptions about human rights—that its main purpose is to enable, protect, and care for those in need—on their heads, showing how the value of human rights lies in its support of ethical self-care.

Gay PrioriLibby Adler’s Gay Priori offers a comprehensive critique of the mainstream LGBT legal agenda in the United States, showing how LGBT equal rights discourse drives legal advocates toward a narrow array of reform objectives that do little to help the lives of the most marginalized members of the LGBT community.

In From the Tricontinental to the Global South Anne Garland Mahler traces the history and intellectual legacy of the understudied global justice movement called the Tricontinental and calls for a revival of the Tricontinental’s politics as a means to strengthen racial justice and anti-neoliberal struggles in the twenty-first-century.

Aimee Bahng’s Migrant Futures traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction, showing how speculative novels, films, and narratives create alternative futures that envision the potential for new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.

A Primer for Teaching Environmental History, by Emily Wakild and Michelle K. Berry, is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching environmental history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate environmental history into their world history courses. The book is part of a new series, Design Principles for Teaching History.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for Subject Matters, our e-mail newsletter, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

World Water Day

wwd-generiq-cmjn_en_2017_square-01-e1521487552747.pngToday is World Water Day, coordinated by the United Nations to draw attention to the importance of water and to the water-related challenges we face today. Our scholarship on water and ocean studies has been steadily growing, and we’re happy to take this occasion to share some of it with you.

978-0-8223-7040-6Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake, forthcoming in April, explains Mexico City’s transformation from a forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity plagued by environmental problems and social inequality. Watering the Revolution by Mikael D. Wolfe addresses Mexican agrarian reform through a history of water management in the Laguna region, and Shaylih Muehlmann’s Where the River Ends is a moving look at how the Cucapá people of northwest Mexico have experienced and responded to the diversion of the Colorado River.

ddrhr_116Co-winner of the 2013 award for Best Special Issue from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Radical History Review‘s “Water: History, Power, Crisis,” examines the historical processes that shape contemporary water issues. Contributors focus on how state-sponsored water programs, from sewage treatment to irrigation to damming, radically transform local communities. Topics include caste legacies and waste management in India, dam building in nineteenth-century Egypt, North African emigration and municipal water policy in Paris, and contested water management programs in the Ecuadorean highlands. Collectively, in essays and photos, the authors investigate how water or its absence has affected human societies and seek to historicize the politics of the struggle to control one of our most crucial natural resources. Read the introduction, made freely available.

In Hydraulic City Nikhil Anand explores the politics of Mumbai’s water infrastructure to demonstrate how citizenship emerges through the continuous efforts to control, maintain, and manage the city’s water. Lisa Björkman’s Pipe Politics, Contested Waters shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a “world class” business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes.

ddpcult_28_2We live in the age of extremes, a period punctuated by significant disasters that have changed the way we understand risk, vulnerability, and the future of communities. Violent ecological events such as Superstorm Sandy attest to the urgent need to analyze what cities around the world are doing to reduce carbon emissions, develop new energy systems, and build structures to enhance preparedness for catastrophe. The essays in “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” a special issue of Public Culture, illustrate that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. The contributors provide a truly global perspective on topics such as the toxic effects of fracking, water rights in the Los Angeles region, wind energy in southern Mexico, and water scarcity from Brazil to the Arabian Peninsula. Read the introduction, made freely available.

Hough-Snee and Sotelo EastmanBy showing how the waters of the Nile are constantly made and remade as a resource by people in and outside Egypt, Jessica Barnes, in Cultivating the Nile, demonstrates the range of political dynamics, social relations, and technological interventions that must be incorporated into understandings of water and its management.

The Critical Surf Studies Reader, a collection edited by Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee and Alexander Sotelo Eastman, refocuses the history and culture of surfing, paying particular attention to reclaiming the roles that women, indigenous peoples, and people of color have played in surfing. Ulrich Oslender’s The Geographies of Social Movements proposes a critical place perspective to examine the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific Coast region.

978-0-8223-6235-7In The Undersea Network Nicole Starosielski follows undersea Internet cables from the ocean depths to their landing zones on the sandy beaches of the South Pacific, bringing them to the surface of media scholarship and making visible the materiality of the wired network.

Eating the Ocean by Elspeth Probyn is an ethnographic journey around the world’s oceans and fisheries, centering oceans as the site of the entanglement of multiple species and enabling us to realize that we cannot escape the food politics of the human-fish relationship.

 

Familiarizing the Extraterrestrial / Making Our Planet Alien

The most recent issue of Environmental Humanities featuring the special section, “Familiarizing the Extraterrestrial / Making Our Planet Alien,” edited by Istvan Praet Juan Francisco Salazar, is now available.

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This special section brings together research on outer space by means of ethnographic explorations of astrobiology, planetary science, and physical cosmology. A growing number of researchers in the social sciences and the environmental humanities have begun to focus on the wider universe and how it is apprehended by modern cosmology. Today the extraterrestrial has become part of the remit of anthropologists, philosophers, historians, geographers, scholars in science and technology studies, and artistic researchers, among others.

This section also explores how Earth is being transformed into a “natural laboratory” of sorts, allowing scientists to experiment with and theorize about alien life. There is an emerging consensus that astronomers and other natural scientists—contrary to a common prejudice—are never simply depicting or describing the cosmos “just as it is.”  Scientific knowledge of the universe is based on skilled judgments rather than on direct, unmediated perception. It is science, but it is also an art.

Explore the table-of-contents and read the introduction, freely available.

Unpacking Tourism

ddrhr_129Tourism shapes popular fantasies of adventure, structures urban and natural space, creates knowledge around difference, and demands an array of occupations servicing the insatiable needs of those who travel for leisure. Even as migrants and refugees have become targets of ire from far-right parties, international tourism has grown worldwide.

The most recent issue of Radical History Review, “Unpacking Tourism,” posits a radical approach to the study of tourism, highlighting how tourism as a paradigmatic modern encounter bleeds into diplomacy, militarism, and empire building. Contributors investigate, among other topics, how the United States has used tourism in Latin America as a tool of interventionist foreign policy, how Bethlehem’s Manger Square has become a contested space between Palestinians and the Israeli state, how Spain’s economy increasingly relies on northern European tourists, and how the US military’s Cold War–era guidebooks attempted to convert soldiers stationed abroad into “ambassadors of goodwill.”

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Gendered and Sexual Mobilities

ddmew_13_2_coverThe most recent special issue of Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS), “Gendered and Sexual Mobilities,” edited by miriam cooke, Banu Gökariksel, and Frances S. Hasso, is now available.

This issue highlights the significance of mobility for our understanding of gendered and sexual difference. The four articles explore the role of spatial mobility and immobility in the construction of gendered and sexual bodies and subjectivities. Contributors Anna J. Secor, Camila Pastor de Maria Campos, and Fatma Umut Beşpınar recognize how rarely scholars examine the perspective of marginalized gendered and sexual subjects who are deemed morally dangerous. Questioning mobility and difference, therefore, enables us to illuminate how issues of difference are fixed and framed through regimes of visibility, certification, and regulation.

Explore the table-of-contents and read the preface to the issue, now freely available.

Read to Respond: Labor

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on labor, worker’s rights, and neoliberalism. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Labor

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.