Name: Cymene Howe

Affiliation: Rice University, Department of Anthropology and the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences.

Contact details: 415.203.4346

Statement of interest: The project I am currently developing concerns the social life of ice in the Arctic and, specifically, in the country of Iceland. Following my work on renewable energy transitions—which has analyzed the role of “mitigation” strategies in forestalling further anthropogenic harms to the earth’s aqua-, litho-, bio- and atmospheres, this project centers on “adaptations” to climate change. Ice has clearly become our climatological canary. It can be measured, its retreats photographed, its historic depths plumbed and its duration—or life span—calculated. And it is melting: nowhere faster, and faster than expected, in the Arctic region. Ice’s physical changes and the geohydrological implications associated with it are now featured regularly in the media, especially as displacements increase and permafrost withers. However, scant attention has been given to the social and cultural meaning of changing ice formations in the frozen places where it has dominated landscapes, shaped lives and conditioned accounts of land, weather and subjective experience. This project prioritizes the social and political significance of ice, the values associated with it, and the implications of its expiration; it is an inquiry into the social sentiments and consequences of melt and the metamorphosis of ice. In the simplest terms it is a study of cryohmuan relations.  
My second book Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene (forthcoming 2017) is based on a collaborative research project (with Dominic Boyer) in Oaxaca, Mexico and focuses on the political and social contingencies of renewable energy development. Home to some of the best wind on the planet, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been the locus for a booming wind energy industry. While wind park development across the Isthmus has been animated by state and corporate initiatives that purport to enhance regional economic development, generate a green profile for the Mexican state and suspend, to a degree, a quantity of carbon dioxide contamination, local resistance to projects has been significant and is deeply conditioned by histories of state abandonment and suspicions regarding transnational capital. Conflicts surrounding renewable energy transitions are, on the one hand, deeply political economic in nature, concerning dispossession and persistent inequalities. But they are also summarily ethical projects that hold out a promise for a greater global good, while often demanding localized concessions. The book chapters are structured to oscillate between an emphasis on material entitles and other lives (Wind, Trucks, Species) and the human intraconnections within and among them. In this project and others, I am aiming to think through the ways in which ecological authority is constituted as well as how anthropogenic climate change calls for new ways of imagining our collective biotic and material futures.

Geographical/topical area of interest: Environment, ecology, and energy; ontologies, vitalities and neomaterialisms; activism and human rights; gender and sexuality; Latin America (Mexico, Nicaragua); the Arctic (Iceland); United States.