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April 13, 2018

Humanists Join the Conversation at CMU Energy Week

By Daniel Hirsch

As part of its three-day symposium, CMU Energy Week brought together industry leaders, technologists, and policy experts to convene on the topic of energy. And, in a panel called "The Imperative of Energy Humanities," humanists joined the conversation as well.

Moderated by Associate Professor of English Kathy M. Newman the panel included Jacob Goessling, an English Ph.D. candidate in Literary and Cultural Studies, Abigail E. Owen an assistant visiting professor of history, and Noah Theriault, an assistant professor of history.

"I've become convinced that energy history must be an integral part of cultural studies," Newman said in her opening remarks to the panel. "We can't make culture without energy and at the same time the kind of culture we produce is dependent on available energy forms at any given moment."

Indeed, each of the panelists brought a unique cultural and historical studies perspective to the theme of energy. 

A historian of science and technology, Owen studies the social and political aspects of water and agriculture. Theriault, a sociocultural anthropologist, researches how one's relationship with the environment is shaped by political and economic structures. Goessling's Ph.D. dissertation examines literary and visual artists who have used materials such as slurry or coal ash to call attention to the mining industry's impact on rural Appalachia.

In her opening remarks, Newman, whose own cultural studies work examines issues of labor and culture, tied the growth of human culture to the very beginnings of human facilitated energy production. She cited the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa where humans first controlled a fire and where storytelling cultures first began.

Watch the entire "Imperative of Energy Humanities" panel below. 

Learn more about CMU Energy week here