Petrocultures: Reflections on 10 years of research and advocacy for a world in crisis

July 21, 2022

Big Thinking at Congress 2022

Petrocultures: Reflections on 10 years of research and advocacy for a world in crisis

Just what is a petroculture? The term captures the deep and abiding impact of fossil fuels on the character of society. To see ourselves as inhabiting a ‘petroculture’ is to recognize that technological innovations and renewable energies are unlikely to be enough to address global warming – they must be accompanied by deeper shifts in the social, cultural, and political norms that developed alongside the energy riches of the past century-and-a-half.  That’s why the Petrocultures Research Group (PRG) generated the new discipline of the energy humanities, and with it, new ways of thinking about the past, present, and future of the cultures of energy.

In this Big Thinking lecture, PRG’s co-founders Imre Szeman and Sheena Wilson will explore the field of energy humanities. From the initial issues that led to the creation of the PRG, to the growing list of research initiatives and programs that are tackling the cultural politics of energy in our society, Szeman and Wilson invite us to imagine how the energy transition could create more livable futures for all.


Imre Szerman headshot

Imre Szeman is the University Research Chair of Environmental Communication at the University of Waterloo. He is the author (most recently) of On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy (West Virginia University Press, 2019) and is currently working on The Future of the Sun, a book detailing corporate and state control of the transition to renewables. He is also the Climate Critic for the Green Party of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.  

Sheena Wilson headshot

Sheena Wilson is a Professor of Media, Communications, and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. Wilson’s publication highlights include Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Cultures with Imre Szeman and Adam Carlson (MQUP, 2017); "Trafficking in Petronormativities" (2020); "Energy Imaginaries: Feminist and Decolonial Futures" (2018); "Petro-Mama: Mothering in a Crude World"(2016); "Gendering Oil: Tracing Western Petrosexual Relations” (2014). With Dr. Angele Alook, she co-directed Pîkopayin: It is Broken (2022), a documentary film created as part of a partnership between Just Powers and Bigstone Cree Nation. She also advises Edmonton's municipal government on energy and climate.

Big Thinking Podcast. Headshot of Julia Woodhall-Melnik and Gabriel Miller. Title reads: Redefining the Canadian housing paradigm - part II

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