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Graduate Student: Joseph Ren  

Joseph Ren
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My dissertation research explores the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of a contemporary period marked by protracted economic decline in the US-led world system and by ongoing climate catastrophe. To do so, I trace the origins of the current arc of accumulation to Britain's epochal integration of fossil fuels, driving the expansion of its empire in an unprecedented globalizing movement, in the early nineteenth century.

I argue that the cultural forms and problematics - including mass culture, seriality, speculative fiction, environmental catastrophe, and global immiseration - opened during British-led globalization also saturate post-1973 US cultural production. In particular, I track the blossoming of speculative genres during periods of turbulence and crisis. I ask how the expression of speculative mode by British cultural production during a time of transition from coal to oil as the dominant global energy source (not coincidentally as the US surpassed Britain as the global hegemon) might help us understand media in the contemporary moment, as oil increasingly loses its viability and as the US cycle of accumulation wanes.

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