New ‘Cultures of Energy’ podcast series explores the energy humanities

A new podcast series hosted by Rice’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) shines a light on the multitude of energy humanities research activities and events brought to bear at the university. Posted on a biweekly basis, “Cultures of Energy” is co-hosted by center director Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe, associate professor of anthropology.


Credit: University

Energy humanities is an emergent interdisciplinary area of research for which Rice is widely recognized. It explores today’s social and ecological challenges through the lens of electricity and fuel use, studying people’s patterns of energy consumption and analyzing their consequences, past, present and future.

“The ‘Cultures of Energy’ podcast … is all about finding ways to connect the really vibrant intellectual world of energy humanities and arts and to broadcast it, to get it out there,” said Boyer, a professor of anthropology.

Boyer and Howe both have a background in radio production, having served as DJs at their respective undergraduate alma maters, which shows in the easy banter on display during the inaugural episode.

“The fact is that in just the last few years … we’ve had really amazing scholars and thinkers and activists and artists come and visit with us and talk with us, and so it seems sort of criminal to keep that locked up just in our own individual brains,” said Howe, a member of the CENHS faculty steering committee. “Instead, we want to share the wealth.”

In the inaugural episode, Boyer interviews Hugo and Nebula award-winning science-fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi, author of the “The Windup Girl” and “The Water Knife,” about what science fiction can do in the era of climate change. The second podcast, posted Jan. 18, features Howe’s interview with Anna Tsing, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is one of the world’s leading scholars of globalization and the environment and author, most recently, of “The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.”

Boyer said upcoming podcasts will feature University of Oregon literary scholar Stephanie LeMenager, author of “Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century,” and CENHS’s new postdoctoral fellow Roy Scranton, author of “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization” and an Iraq war veteran.

To listen or subscribe to the podcasts, go to Apple iTunes. The podcasts are also posted on the “Cultures of Energy” blog,, and will soon be available on the Stitcher Internet radio service.

CENHS is part of Rice’s landmark Energy and Environment Initiative, the first effort to involve all the intellectual resources of a major research university in addressing today’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges. Established in 2013, CENHS is likewise a first-of-its-kind: the only research center in the world specifically designed to sponsor research on the energy/environment nexus across the arts, humanities and social sciences. CENHS builds upon over two years of work by the Cultures of Energy Faculty Working Group at Rice, which helped to pioneer the field of interdisciplinary energy humanities in conjunction with a Sawyer Seminar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.