Dissertation Title: The Energetic Earth: A Prequel to the Politics of the Anthropocene
Committee: Daniel Deudney, Jane Bennett
Defense Date: Spring 2016
My dissertation historicizes energy and the politics of the Anthropocene. Energy is often treated as a universal, transhistorical entity, but I instead show its emergence as an industrial mode of engaging the earth, one that arose out of human-steam engine entanglements in the nineteenth century. Energy offered its own Scottish Presbyterian ethos for engaging with energy-things and with the earth, one that remains dominant today. I also show how these energetic approaches to the earth, to waste and to industrial technology, were central to the mid-twentieth century debates over nuclear power, and how this episode of early energy environmentalism is an early rehearsal of contemporary energy debates. Indeed, while climate change or earth systems science was as yet unknown, energy politics and science since the mid-nineteenth century were centrally concerned with the relationship between industrial humans and the earth, and therefore constitute a prequel to the politics of the Anthropocene, one that helped constitute environmental politics today.