Chemo-Capital Succession in the Contemporary U. S.: From Engineered Woods to Alter-Engineered Worlds

18 Feb 2016
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Nicholas Shapiro
Matter, Materials and Culture Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

The formaldehyde-based resins that hold together engineered woods (plywood, particleboard, etc.) are an overlooked, yet foundational, agent in the homemaking and technological dreamworlds of mid-20th century U.S. and continue to undergird much of the comfort, security, and affordability of the modern home. Formaldehyde emanating from these construction materials is today to the most common pollutant wafting through domestic air, continuously and minutely corroding human and companion-species bodies alike. In this talk I attempt to track the simultaneous composition and decomposition of life through industrial chemistry and late industrial capitalism with a particular focus on how our chemical ecologies, infrastructures, atmospheres, and techniques of capital accumulation shift over time: a bundle of linked processes and materials I am tenuously calling “chemo-capital succession.” Stemming from ethnographic work on formaldehyde and its precursor, methane (a potent green house gas), I will query the political implications of remediation, speculative finance as environmental regulator, civic technosciene/consumerist irony, and artist led-‘alter-engineering’ projects.


This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  CSTMS

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