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Sustainability Events

Energy: A Perception of Human Culture and History

Living Wisdom

Stephanie Rupp

  • Associate Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York-Lehman College

Contemporary urban life is marinated in energy. Strings of lights along the highway; the cooling power of an air conditioner; the surge of jet engines at takeoff; the beeping and buzzing of phone calls and text messages: energy powers our world. Yet energy is as invisible as it is ubiquitous. As ethnographic evidence indicates, Americans think of energy as an ever-present, never-ending, immeasurable force that powers their lives in invisible and incomprehensible ways. But what cultural conceptions of energy - images, perceptions, and assumptions shape people’s understandings and uses of energy, in contemporary America? Are there other ways to think about energy, cultural conceptions about the relationship between energy and power, energy and work, energy and social relations, which can help Americans to re-think our cavalier consumption of energy? How do other cultures - other global traditional societies perceive energy?

Moderated by Chris Rainier, director of the Global Program for Traditional Knowledge and Sustainability, this talk draws on cultural understandings of energy from different cultural contexts and from different historical periods, emphasizing the importance of energy as a cultural artifact and perception.

Stephanie Rupp is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York, Lehman College. She received her PhD from Yale University. She has active research projects on cultural conceptions of energy and technology. One of her recent publications is Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies (Left Coast Press, 2013). She has conducted ethnographic research in the Congo River basin for 20 years, working both in the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Lobéké Forest region of southeastern Cameroon.

Lunch will be provided.

This event is at capacity and can no longer accept reservations.

Friday, October 30, 2015
12:00 - 1:30 p.m.