Event: Chemical Kinships – RGS 2019

I’m excited to be part of the upcoming Chemical Kinships session at this year’s RGS-IBG annual conference in London, organised by the fantastic Angeliki Balayannis (Brunel University London) and Emma Garnett (King’s College London). Abstract and session outlines follow below.

Session Abstract

A. Balayannis & E. Garnett

A chemical turn is taking place across the social sciences and humanities. This bourgeoning field of research is increasingly approaching industrial chemicals ontologically, as heterogeneous material entanglements. These situated attunements to chemical relations and conditions are stimulating new conceptual developments, including: chemical kinship (Agard-Jones 2013); chemical geographies (Romero et al. 2017); the chemosphere (Shapiro 2015); chemical space (Barry 2005); and chemo-ethnography (Shapiro and Kirksey 2017). This session considers what a geographical approach to chemicals generates conceptually, empirically, and ethically. Geography has largely taken the materialities of industrial chemicals for granted – often reducing them to villainous objects. By approaching the spatiotemporalities of chemicals through their enabling and constraining capacities, this session considers the ways shared exposures afford new political possibilities (Alaimo 2016; Murphy 2006).

The session has two key strands, the first entails a set of themed paper sessions, exploring chemical entanglements in embodied, material, and affective registers. The second puts these ideas into practice, through a participatory workshop for cultivating attunements to chemical kinships in central London – exploring bodily relations with chemicals, ranging from antibiotics to air pollutants to plastics. Our point of departure for this final session is Elizabeth Povinelli’s key question (2017: 508): ‘How does one probe and discover the world that one is in, but can experience only peripherally?’

 

Paper Abstract

CH4emical Encounters: A Human/Natural Gas History – Knowledge/Politics/Governance

 P. Forman 2019

How has natural gas, an often-violently vital, yet also invisible, intangible, and largely odourless material, become humanly known? How has it transformed so radically in its everyday relationships with people that, in the space of just 200 years, it has gone from inspiring widespread fear to featuring as an everyday household commodity that people not only depend upon, but which is so normalised in daily routines that it is rarely given a second thought?

To explore these questions, I outline a brief history of human-natural gas encounters, describing the development of a range of increasingly elaborate techniques for rendering natural gas knowable, communicating its effects, and regulating its behaviour. In the process, I examine how natural gas occupies a position that seemingly contradicts dominant narratives of material vitalism (in which materials are overwhelmingly represented as villainous entities: as sources of societal threat or challenging inertia), demonstrating how gas instead presents a range of threats and opportunities for society. These vital capacities are also shown to be the focus of increasingly sophisticated practices of governance, gas being surveyed, monitored and manipulated in efforts to actualise certain vital capacities, whilst inhibiting others.

In tracing this history of gaseous knowledge production and governance, I conclude by considering the lessons that could be learned for the governance, politicisation and rendering known of other gaseous substances that have significance for ecological governance in the Anthropocene, in particular, carbon dioxide and air pollution.

 

Preliminary Programme

 

Session 1

Organisers: Angeliki Balayannis,  Emma Garnett

Chair: Angeliki Balayannis

Papers

Making microbes make materials: Chemical kinship and relations of value in the biotechnological production of industrial chemicals

  • Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham, UK), Carmen McLeod (University of Nottingham, UK), Brigitte Nerlich (University of Nottingham, UK) 

Chemical regimes of living and home hygiene practices in Sydney, Australia

  • Rachael Wakefield-Rann (University of Technology Sydney, Australia) 

Here We Go; Here We Go; Here We Go: Olfactory Circulations in Moments Of Collective Delight

  • Victoria J. E. Jones (Durham University, UK)

Oxidation in Relation to Urban Bio- and Geo- Politics: When Elements and Bodies Encounter in a Petrochemical City

  • Yi-Ting Chang (National Taiwan University, Taiwan), Shiuh-Shen Chien (National Taiwan University, Taiwan), & Yi-Ting Chang (National Taiwan University, Taiwan)

Circulating stories of the air

  • Harshavardhan Bhat (University of Westminster, UK) 

Session 2

Organisers: Angeliki Balayannis, Emma Garnett

Chairs: Angeliki Balayannis, Emma Garnett

Papers:

The Social Life of Nitrogen: Organic Chemicals and Political Economy

  • Emma Cardwell (University of Glasgow, UK)

CH4emical Encounters: A Human/Natural Gas History -Knowledge/Politicization/Governance

  • Peter Forman (Lancaster University, UK) 

Beyond nuclear geographies: Exploring the entangled afterlives of para-nuclear waste 

  • Rebecca Alexis-Martin (University of Southampton, UK) 

Garbage Mountains: Chemical Geographies as Sacred Space

  • Katie Oxx (Saint Joseph’s University, USA)

CO2; the problematic chemistry of cement; and the question of substitution

  • Vera Ehrenstein (University College London, UK) 

Session 3

Organisers: Angeliki Balayannis, Emma Garnett

Chairs: Angeliki Balayannis, Emma Garnett 

Format

Workshop 

 

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Event: CfP ‘Thermal Geographies’ RGS-IBG 2019 Annual Conference

There is still time to submit an abstract to our RGS-IBG session on Thermal Geographies! Full details below.
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Thermal Geographies: empirical, conceptual and methodological encounters and consolidations.

 

RGS-IBG 2019 Annual International Conference: London (Wednesday 28th to Friday 30th August 2019).

Convenors: Elspeth Oppermann (Technical University Munich), Gordon Walker (Lancaster University) and Peter Forman (Lancaster University).

This session seeks to draw together the multiple ways in which the ‘thermal’ plays a role in shaping geographical materialities and knowledges, and their co-production. It is propelled by two shifts. First, the emergence of new modes of engaging with the thermal such as: embodied, affective, experiential and non-representational engagements with heat and warmth (Ingold, 2011; Vannini et al. 2012); new materialist accounts of energy (Bennet, 2009; Kirby 2011); and analyses in the fields of architecture (Ong, 2012) and human evolution (Jablonski, 2013), which identify heat or thermal energy as agential in the co-production of socio-material, cultural and political worlds.

Second, profound shifts in the materiality of our encounters with thermal energy; on the one hand human life has a remarkable ability to shield itself from and control thermal environments, and on the other, we are increasingly exposed to the vagaries of thermal shifts beyond our control, in part as a result of our (inadvertent) climate engineering. As such, the thermal appears as newly powerful: experientially productive, and potentially existentially destructive. Too much or too little heat, at the wrong or right times, in the wrong or right places – is playing an ever more visible role in the production of thermally differentiated physical and social geographies.

Geographers have engaged with the thermal in various ways. Examples include: the thermally shifting geopolitics of the Arctic, (Shake et al. 2017; Steinberg & Kristofferson, 2017); uneven thermal infrastructural, economic and social geographies (e.g. Buzar, 2007; Silver, 2016);  elemental and pyrotechnical geographies of ice and fire (e.g. Adey, 2015; Clark & Yusoff, 2014); and the entangled geographies of thermal flow for, through and from social practice, including in relation to corporeal vulnerabilities of various forms (e.g. Oppermann and Walker, 2018; Hitchings, 2011).

Cognisant of our temporal and spatial situatedness in a rapidly warming world, we invite empirical, methodological and theoretical papers that critically engage with the thermal as a productive geographical register for understanding, intervening in, or engaging ethically with the dynamics of political, cultural, economic, material and ecological formations.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words with your name and affiliation to Elspeth Oppermann (elspeth.oppermann@tum.de) and Gordon Walker (g.p.walker@lancaster.ac.uk) by the 8th of February, 5 PM UK time.

Senior Research Assistant – Lancaster University

As of January 2019, I will be a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University, working on the Flexibility theme of a government-funded project for the ‘Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions’ (CREDS). More information on CREDS, its wider work, and the flexibility theme can be found here: https://www.creds.ac.uk/

My role will be to work with Professor Elizabeth Shove and Dr Stanley Blue to explore the past, present and future of flexibility in energy demand systems. Ongoing updates from this project will be uploaded here: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/flexibility/

New Paper: Security & the Subsurface – Geopolitics

This paper critically examines the ways in which the securing of the UK’s natural gas flows requires complex visualisation practices through which the subterranean movements of natural gas and its dynamic, transforming infrastructures are rendered visible and actionable. Instead of seeing energy infrastructures as rigid and more or less obstinate to change (a tendency within the energy politics literatures that has recently been critiqued by Haarstad & Wanvik, 2016), I highlight the dynamisms inherent to these networks, and the ways in which they give rise to different forms of risk that must be visualised and mitigated against in order to render such networks as safe and ‘secure’.

For a free copy (50 available), follow the link below to the Taylor and Francis website:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14650045.2018.1513918?tokenDomain=eprints&tokenAccess=sNRj48Xn2QYYCBtI4rE3&forwardService=showFullText&doi=10.1080%2F14650045.2018.1513918&doi=10.1080%2F14650045.2018.1513918&journalCode=fgeo20

This article is part of a forthcoming special issue on Subterranean Geopolitics, edited by Klaus Dodds and Rachel Squire. Look out for it, it is coming soon!

New Paper: Inorganic Becomings: Situating the Anthropocene in Puchuncavi – Environmental Humanities

Our paper on experiencing the Anthropocene in Puchuncavi Bay (Chile) is now out. It is a collaboration between fellow materialist scholars, Manual Tironi, Myra Hird, Christian Simonetti, and Nate Freiburger. You can access the full article by following the link below.

https://read.dukeupress.edu/environmental-humanities/article/10/1/187/134706/Inorganic-BecomingsSituating-the-Anthropocene-in

Abstract

In this choral essay we, an assorted group of academics interested in inorganic life and matter, explore a mode of thinking and feeling withour objects of inquiry—chemicals, waste, cement, gas, and the “project” as a particular form of circulation and enactment of materials and things. To experiment with alternative modes of knowing, we went to Puchuncaví, the largest, oldest, and most polluting industrial compound in Chile, to encounter the inorganic through and with its inorganicness and to attend to the situated, historicized, and political composition of both our materials and our experiences. Thinking of this as a collective provocation, we do not rehearse a conventional argument. Its parts are connected but only partially. There is no dramatic arc but rather an attempt at composing an atmosphere through which our thought and feelings are invoked. We have made visible the authorship behind each of the stories recounted here to celebrate the multivocality of our collaboration and to rehearse a nonabstracted mode of attention to Puchuncaví and the inorganic forces and entities we encountered there. We connect our irritations and speculations with the Anthropocene precisely as a way of summoning the multiple violences, many of them of planetary reach, that have to be denounced when situating our knowledge practices in Puchuncaví. Thinking about the ethico-political challenges of research in territories that have been, and are being, transformed under the weighty history of contamination and that are lived in and lived with by generations of beings (human and otherwise), we call in our concluding remarks for an enhanced pedagogy of care born of our inherited pasts and of engagement, interest, and becoming as response-ability.

Teaching: Energy (In)Securities – Winter Semester @Tübingen

Same as last term, students signed up to my course ‘Energy (In)Securities’ will be producing a series of blog posts exploring topics covered in class. These posts will again be hosted on www.exploringsecurity.wordpress.com, and will be uploaded across the semester, so stay tuned!

The handbook for the course, including seminar outlines and reading lists is attached below.

Energy Insecurities – Seminar Handbook (Download link)

New Paper: Circulations beyond Nodes: (in)securities along the pipeline – Mobilities

I’m pleased to announce that my first single-authored paper has been published. It forms part of a special issue edited by Matthias Leese and Stef Wittendorp, entitled ‘Old Securities, New Mobilities’. In it, I draw attention to the opportunities that mobilities approaches can offer for studying security beyond the circulatory ‘nodes’ in which its’ analysis has been recently confined. The paper and its’ abstract can be accessed here, but if you do not have access through your institution, please get in touch via email – I have a limited number of free copies that I am very happy to share.

If you are interested, make sure that you also check out the other articles that are part of this special issue – two of these are currently in early access and have been linked below. More are to come.

Old Securities, New Mobilities – eta. February, 2018

Glouftsios, G. (2017) Governing circulation through technology within EU border security practice-networks http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17450101.2017.1403774

Leese, M. (2017) Standardizing security: the business case politics of borders http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17450101.2017.1403777