Aeolian Futures: Wind and Power and in the Anthropocene
In a time when fossil fuels have been exposed as among the greatest ecological threats to life on earth, renewable energy forms like solar and wind power are increasingly promoted as instruments of our collective salvation. But our fieldwork in Southern Mexico on the politics of wind power development has yielded evidence of a more complex story. The stakeholders in Mexican renewable energy are many, ranging from all levels of government, to international industry and finance, to indigenous ranchers and fisherfolk in a region that has, in only a decade, come to be home to the densest concentration of on-shore wind parks anywhere in the world. Some in the Isthmus indeed believe that wind power will not only bring clean energy to Mexico but also upward mobility and economic prosperity to one of the poorest regions of the country. Others are fiercely critical of what they regard as just another effort to extract land and resources for the benefit of those outside the region. In our analysis, we argue against a singular interpretation of “wind power” and toward a surfacing of the multiple effects and ways of wind’s mattering in the Isthmus (and beyond). We call for attention to the “aeolian politics” from which ideas and projects of wind power emerge and we evaluate the multiplicity of “aeolian futures” that might await us. Some of these futures, we argue, may break with the trajectories of the Anthropocene. Others will not.
Cymene Howe is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University as well as a founding faculty member of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences. She is the author of Intimate Activism (Duke 2013) and Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene (forthcoming)—a collaborative, multimedia duograph that analyzes the contingent social and material formations of renewable energy in the global south. Her current project, Melt: The Social Life of Ice at the Top of the World, seeks to understand cryohuman interrelations and the implications of climate-induced geohydrological change in the Arctic and beyond. She currently serves as co-editor for the journal Cultural Anthropology and the Johns Hopkins Guide to Social Theory and she is co-host of the Cultures of Energy podcast, available free on itunes.
Dominic Boyer has done extensive anthropological research on the practice of news journalism in Germany and the United States and has published widely on the relationship between media and knowledge in modern society. In recent research, he has shown how over the past thirty years the rise of new digital information technology combined with the spread of neoliberal policy regimes to profoundly unsettle broadcast-era patterns of newsmaking and news circulation, thus forcing news journalists to reinvent their expertise and authority. In his current work, Boyer examines the contribution of energy systems to modern political culture. He is involved in ongoing collaborative field research with Prof. Cymene Howe on renewable energy development in Southern Mexico, a project that asks through what configuration of alliances carbon energy dependent states will be able to implement important projects of energy transition.
Before joining the faculty at Rice in 2009, Boyer taught at Cornell University and the University of Chicago. He has held visiting fellowships to the EHESS-Paris, to the Goethe Universität Frankfurt and to Durham University. Boyer has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. In addition to editing a book series, Expertise: Cultures and Technologies of Knowledge, with Cornell University Press and to leading the editorial collective of the journal Cultural Anthropology, Boyer is author of Spirit and System: Media, Intellectuals and the Dialectic in Modern German Intellectual Culture (Chicago UP 2005), Understanding Media: A Popular Philosophy (Prickly Paradigm 2007) and The Life Informatic: Newsmaking in the Digital Era (Cornell UP 2013). His next book project is provisionally titled, Winds of Desire: Energopolitics in Southern Mexico.