Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley’


Subterranean Estates

5/19: This time, we all met at Michael Watt‘s office, with Hannah Appel, on the fifth floor of McCone Building, Department of Geography, north side entrance of UC Berkeley. Our task was to fill out the promotional material list required by Cornell University Press for our upcoming edited volume Subterranean Estates: Lifeworlds of Oil and Gas.

We spent some time catching up. For example, Michael mentioned having given a talk at Cornell University recently, which provided an opportunity to meet up with Malcolm R., chief editor for Cornell U Press. Hannah has been getting ready to move to Los Angeles, to take up her assistant professor position in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA.

The list of questions (distinctive qualities, key words, promotional quotes from marquee names, etc), took the better part of two hours.




Lifeworlds of Oil and Gas

(the Oil Talk book).sky2meal

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Lunchy no. 2

3/10: The buffet bar fascinates — having seen it on prior occasions, but not daring to dash the order for fear of conspicuous grazing.

But, there you have it. On this day, reaching over the pasta bowl amidst the other buffet prepared salads, Adam French discussed the merits of writing on a daily basis.

It is a practice that each of us can benefit from, one and all.

Svenn Jensen pointed out the duration for accomplishment, the length required to publish real work in contrast to the postdoctoral process itself, which was something we all agreed with, that by the time you get comfortable in a place, it is time to move on.
Yes sir! It was another Ciriacy-Wantrup Luncheon, this time in the heart of the Women’s Faculty Club, and the three of us, Svenn, Adam and myself ordered from the buffet table, while Raphael Calel and Louisa Lombard chose directly from the menu. Svenn commented that nearly everything was perfect, with exception of the jello, which he felt was more savory than sweet. We decided to divvy up his portion, to give his tastebuds a rest, while not let go anything to waste.

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Subterranean Estates

12/13: The time was 4AM when I left the hotel, hopping a taxi out of Helsinki for the airport, catching the 6:30 flight to Frankfurt, then the long haul to SFO International.

I dreamt enroute that the KLM flight required a promotional fly-by to provide passengers with a quick glance of off-shore oil platform laborers.

The images that flashed across my retina were of Paul Bunyan sized figures, waving toward the aircraft, leaning off the platform with one hand holding the side of the rig.

Of course, this was likely conjured from the purpose of my flight itself, purchased specifically so that I would arrive back in time to attend the editorial meeting of a nearly completed book with nineteen authors reflecting on oil and gas industry, with fellow co-editors Hannah Appel and Michael Watts titled:



Lifeworlds of Oil and Gas

The book will be published on Cornell University Press in 2014.

Our meeting took place at Michael’s home in San Francisco, where we covered a variety of topics in lively debate. Michael brought out his photography book collection on oil and gas images, and we had a chance to discuss how we plan to address the rich imagery invoked by the industry.


image 1


The above image is of Hannah Appel looking through the photographic images. Below, I have reposted the top image from a different angle, in order to provide a sense of the collective nature of our productive discussion. We gathered in Michael’s kitchen, in San Francisco, and talked for about 2 hours, over tea and biscuits.



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11/6: Just returning now from a wonderful set of conversations with fellows and mentors of the Ciriacy-Wantrup Luncheon, Berkeley, in the Women’s Faculty Club. As usual, I arrive early for these events, getting a scoop on the scene — the arrangement of things.
napkins We began the luncheon with standing introductions, but some of us were late, and while waiting, those who arrived at the appointed time got a chance to sit in some comfy chairs and exchange pleasantries about where each of us had just arrived from.

Ruxin Liu organized the event. She did a fabulous job, so polite and kind. We were all the better off for her having hosted the event. Raphael Calel had just flown in from London, where he finished his PhD in some kind of economics, it sounded very impressive. He hails from Sweden actually.

Hannah Appel and Louisa Lombard both attended from the Department of Geography. As we introduced ourselves, going around the table talking about our work, both Hannah and Louisa’s projects prompted quite a bit of discussion. Louisa, for example, works in Africa on land enclosure in the context of game reserves and safari parks. She hails from Norway originally.

Svenn Jensen, if not mistaken, is also from Norway. Actually, Svenn — economic modeler of uncertainties associated with climate change — is originally from Germany, but lived the past decade in Norway, before arriving to Berkeley.

Sven ordered the pasta:

meal also

The enjoying:

almost gone

Salmon, non-farmed, caught in the sea:
Professor Lee Freedman sat at the head of the table. Nancy Peluso also joined us, which was kind. She is so intelligent. But Lee, at the helm, did have his say as well, and mentioned quite a few policy initiatives relating to carbon reductions that he instituted, or at the least, recommended to the State of California, which are just now under adoption by Governor Jerry Brown. One in particular, an annual carbon reduction dividend, caught my attention, because it seemed quite similar to the Alaska permanent fund dividend, though, of course, there are significant differences.

Actually, it was a warm welcome all around, and the luncheon closed, just as it began, with a final end of introductions, so interesting was each individual’s self-presentation.
nearly done

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Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 1.58.38 AMfeetpatio

images of abstraction…wall sizetalking…over discussions of uncertainty.

front streetmuffin


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9/13: We submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), titled Pan-Arctic Visions of Sustainability among Indigenous Peoples and the Hydrocarbon Industry (yay!).

The project calls for collaboration of American, Western European, and Russian scholars to study differences between individually and collectively constituted visions of sustainability. Such a fabulous drafting effort! I decided to create a post for the proposal. If funded, we need to document the entire project right here on Paparazzi Ethnography.

The Participants:

We plan for workshops in Norway and northwest Russia focusing on the folks affected by hydrocarbon development, including study of local investment schemes. The idea of workshops came from the “evil genius” — as I refer to my faithful assistant Annamots, seen here in our lair at Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley — Voilà:

Participants at workshops include folks living out on the land where pipelines and oil rigs cross pastures, hunting and fishing grounds, including Indigenous peoples and the oil industry laborers working on infrastructure alongside.

Florian Stammler, of Arctic Centre at Rovaniemi, suggested this approach, providing the relevant expertise on networks with reindeer herding communities in Russia, as seen here (r), asking critical questions at the Aleksanteri conference in Helsinki, Finland.

As to workshop structure, we will elevate the importance of local voices, assigning key leadership positions to local Indigenous members. Also, Norwegian-Russian cross border engagement through workshop participant exchanges will provide opportunities for communities in Russia to learn about Norwegian human rights in the context of oil and gas.

These ideas stem from Maria Stoilkova, Eastern European expert, as seen here left in New Orleans, Louisiana, attending the Anthropological Association Meeting. The workshops will be held in conjunction with quantitative research for mix methods comparative approaches to individual and collective visions of sustainability.

And this development comes from our collaboration with a Norwegian Research Foundation funded project, directed by Dr. Ilan Kelman, who is seen here in his office at the research institute CICERO in Oslo, Norway.

 Carly Dokis has a fabulously completed Ph.D. dissertation from which we constructed the intellectual merit of the proposal, which examines workshops as a Euro-American forum of consultation wrought with potential and hazards, as Carly is shown here, dining with us in Svolvaer, Norway, at a candle making shop.

Our project mentors, Bjørn Berkli, seen below in his office in Tromsø, Norway, this past August, and Nina Poussenkova, shown in the main conference room of IMEMO in Moscow, where we had the opportunity of taking a tour of the building, provide important in-country expertise.

And we know who these two early career scholars are.

You guessed it.

None other than San Francisco’s own Samantha Catalyst, Photographist and International Travelry Specialist, and Octavia Shadowz, Cocktail Waitress and Faschion Designer, both uniquely involved in the project, working at what capacity, only they know best.

Well, that’s the participants. We will return in the coming months, when we begin to hear back from the National Science Foundation Cognizants!!

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6/28: On the heels of the Fulbright Award, I was offered the Ciriacy-Wantrup Fellowship at UC Berkeley, 2012-2013 (deferred to 2013-2014). While not publicly as well known as the Fulbright, the Ciriacy-Wantrup is unique among academic circles, because of its emphasis on qualitative economic knowledge. I was happy to receive the Fulbright, since there are 2 awards per life time, and my first award came 5 years ago, exactly the hiatus period (5 years) to apply for another award. But I really was taken aback by Ciriacy-Wantrup. Everyone I know who has had the award is a heavy hitter in social sciences and while I consider my work innovative on the planning side, I am never quite sure what it looks like on the operational side. The Fellowship dates conflict with the Fulbright so I requested a deferral for one year.

The project involves completing a manuscript that gathers perspectives on my North American (Canada, Alaska) and European (Russia, Norway) observations of energy development.

On face of things I want to create a typology of experience that contrasts corporeality of expertise (immediacy, inspiration, face-to-face) — to the deliberative, contemplative and isolated activity of reading intermediary reports. I have been thinking already over how the two modes of experience (corporeal and textual) may be contrasted by reference to Peter Sloterdijk’s two types of knowledge, ancient kynicism (corporeal, anecdotal) and modern cynicism (distanced reflection through textual familiarity) but also, by reference to Pierre Bourdieu’s Kantian and anti-Kantian aesthetic, the former tending toward a rejection of representations of the obvious in favor of principles of the esoteric, and the latter, a preference for the sensual, immediate and obvious. The discussion could be linked also to Norbert Elias‘ the civilizing process, what Max Weber called “progressiveness”, and what Georg Simmel referred to as “the blasé attitude”.

For anthropologists like myself, the textual and corporeal is a division marking a threshold of modernity. Literacy, for example, emphasizes abstraction, universalization and depersonalization and thus, makes it possible to dispense with spectacle and demonstration in securing the belief and obedience of others. By contrast, for pre-capitalist modes of obedience, relations of power are made, unmade and remade through personal interactions that rely on visible (conspicuous) expenditures of time and performance of the body. This is necessary to secure symbolic recognition, as shown in example after example, in that wonderful book The Gift, by Marcel Mauss. So, in a sense, corporeality raises the possibility that the legitimacy of expertise in a post-capitalist society is based not solely upon theoretical knowledge but instead, upon pre-capitalist modes of spectacle, charisma and enchantment – what Alfred Whitehead called the “staging of verification” in scientific experiments or Bruno Latour refers to as “inscription”.

There are other areas, but that is the general picture of this particular project.

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