Mellon Sawyer Seminar Events

Check back regularly for the most up-to-date information about events associated with the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Energy Justice in Global Perspective.



3:00 pm - 6:00 pm 
McCune Conference Room (6020 HSSB)
Join us for a panel discussion on the politics of carbon. The panel will feature presentations by Javiera Barandiaran (Global Studies), Jia-Ching Chen (Global Studies), and Hannah Appel (Anthropology, UCLA). Timothy Mitchell (Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University) will serve as the discussant.
Javiera Barandiaran (Global Studies)

“Lithium and Development Imaginaries in Chile and Argentina"

Javiera Barandiarán is Assistant Professor in the Global Studies program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Barandiarán received her Ph.D. in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. She holds a Masters in Public Policy also from Berkeley and received her B.A. in politics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her research has been awarded support from the Social Science Research Council and the National Science Foundation. Barandiarán works on environmental politics, experts and the state in Latin America, to understand how states come to know about the environment in order to regulate it. Working from science and technology studies, Dr. Barandiaran's new book, Science and Environment in Chile: The Politics of Expert Advice in a Neoliberal Democracy (MIT Press), examines how scientists participate in environmental conflicts, with attendant demands for justice, in Chile. She has also been conducting fieldwork on the politics of lithium extraction and industrialization in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.

Jia-Ching Chen (Global Studies)
"The High-Carbon Politics of Manufacturing Low-Carbon Energy"
Jia-Ching Chen is an urban, development, and environmental studies researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Currently, his interests are in China's role in shaping the global green economy and the spread of Chinese planning expertise through its international development activities. He also has professional experience in social movements and organized labor. Dr. Chen received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in City & Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies and outside fields in Geography and Anthropology.
Hannah Appel (Anthropology, UCLA)

“Oil and the Licit Life of Capitalism in Equatorial Guinea”

Hannah Appel is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. Her first book - Oil and the Licit Life of Capitalism in Equatorial Guinea (forthcoming with Duke UP, 2019) - is both an account of a specific capitalist project—US oil companies working off the shores of Equatorial Guinea—and an exploration of more general forms and processes—the offshore, contracts, infrastructures, “the” economy—that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. These forms and processes constitute the licit life of capitalism, and they take shape within the raced and gendered histories of colonialism, empire, and white supremacy out of which capitalism emerged. Hannah is at work on a second longterm ethnographic project on African owned and capitalized Pan African Banks, and is also a founding member and organizer of The Debt Collective ( 
Panel Discussant: Timothy Mitchell (Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University)
Timothy Mitchell is a political theorist and historian. His areas of research include the place of colonialism in the making of modernity, the material and technical politics of the Middle East, and the role of economics and other forms of expert knowledge in the government of collective life. Much of his current work is concerned with ways of thinking about politics that allow material and technical things more weight than they are given in conventional political theory. Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he received a first-class honours degree in History, Mitchell completed his Ph.D. in Politics and Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University in 1984. He joined Columbia University in 2008 after teaching for twenty-five years at New York University, where he served as Director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies. At Columbia he teaches courses on the history and politics of the Middle East, colonialism, and the politics of technical things.



Opening Reception and Exhibition
Thursday, January 24
5:00pm - 8:00pm
Digital Arts and Humanities Commons and Wireframe Studio (Music 1410)

Join us as we celebrate the opening of BEYOND THE SPILL with an exhibition and artist talk by Brenda Longfellow

The exhibition will feature digital material from "A Field Guide to Oil in Santa Barbara," an interactive archive and map created by graduate students in the fall quarter Sawyer Seminar course. The exhibition is curated by Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow Emily Roehl and will also feature the interactive documentary work of Brenda Longfellow. 

Artist in Residence: Brenda Longfellow (Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts, York University)

Brenda Longfellow is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts at York University and will be an artist in residence at the Squire Foundation in Santa Barbara during the month of January. Longfellow's documentaries have been screened and broadcast internationally, winning prestigious awards including the Audience Award for Best Experimental Film for Dead Ducks at the Santa Cruz Film Festival (2011); a Bronze Remi Award for Weather Report at the Houston Film Festival (2008); Best Cultural Documentary for Tina in Mexico at the Havana International Film Festival (2002); a Canadian Genie for Shadowmaker / Gwendolyn MacEwen, Poet (1998) and the Grand Prix at Oberhausen for Our Marilyn (1988). She recently launched the SSHRC-funded interactive web documentary OFFSHORE, co-directed with Glen Richards and Helios Design Lab.


"Beyond the Spill" Symposium
Friday, January 25
9:00am - 3:30pm
Multipurpose Room (Student Resource Building)

Featured speakers:

Alicia Cordero (Wishtoyo Foundation First Nations Program Officer, Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation)
Mia Lopez (Tribal Chairwoman, Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation)
Julie Maldonado (Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Bhavna Shamasunder (Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy, Occidental College)
Teresa Sabol Spezio (Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Analysis, Pitzer College)
Keynote and Closing Reception
Friday, January 25
4:00pm - 7:00pm
Betty Elings Wells Pavillion (Faculty Club)
Keynote speaker: Imre Szeman (University Research Chair and Professor of Communication Arts, University of Waterloo)

Imre Szeman's main areas of research are in energy and environmental studies, social and political philosophy, and critical theory and cultural studies. From 1999-2009, Szeman taught at McMaster University, and from 2009 to 2016 he worked at the University of Alberta. At Waterloo, he teaches and is conducting research on environmental communication, energy justice, literary and critical theory, and cultural studies. Szeman is co-founder of the Petrocultures Research Group and author or editor of a number of field-shaping texts in the energy humanities, including Energy Humanities: An Anthology, Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture, and After Oil).


HYDRO SYMPOSIUM: Friday, February 15, 2019

A panel and discussion featuring Valerie Haensch (Anthropology, LMU Munich), Nick Estes (American Studies, University of New Mexico), and Todd Darling (independent filmmaker). More details coming soon.


SOLAR SYMPOSIUM: Friday, March 1, 2019

A panel and discussion featuring Lisa Parks (MIT), Joshua Kirshner (Environment and Geography, University of York), and Dustin Mulvaney (Environmental Studies, San Jose State University). More details coming soon.


GHANA'S ELECTRIC DREAMS: Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A film screening and discussion featuring Rudo Sanyanga (Africa Program Director, International Rivers Network) and filmmakers R. Lane Clark and Stephan Miescher. More details coming soon.


GLOBAL SOUTH-SOUTH SYMPOSIUM: Thursday and Friday, May 9-10, 2019

A two-day symposium on energy justice in Indigenous communities and the Global South featuring Kyle Powys Whyte (Timnick Chair in the Humanities, Michigan State University), Dominic Boyer (Anthropology, Rice University), and Cymene Howe (Anthropology, Rice University). More details coming soon.


Co-Sponsored Events at UCSB

  • Wednesday, November 28: The Capps Forum on Ethics and Public Policy presents a lecture by Sarah Wylie (Northeastern University), "Unfracking the Future through Developing Civic Technoscience." Corwin Pavillion. 7:00pm. 

  • Tuesday, December 4: Uranium Mining and its Toxic Legacy: Screening of Nabikei and Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda and discussion with director Shri Prakash. MCC Theater. 6:00pm - 8:00pm.

  • January 19 - June 16: Anguish, Anger, and Activism: Legacies of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, an exhibition at the UCSB Library Special Collections that documents the link between the 1969 disaster and local environmental activism. There will be an opening reception on Monday, January 28 from 5:00pm - 7:30pm.

  • Friday, February 8: Lecture by Kate Brown (History, UMBC), who will speak about her work on the environmental and medical consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020). 12:00pm - 2:00pm.

  • Tuesday, February 19: Point of No Return: a film about the first solar flight around the world. Pollock Theater. 7:00pm.



COAL STORIES: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 

Join us on October 16th at 7:00 p.m. as we partner with the Carsey-Wolf Center for a screening of Academy Award-winning documentary Harlan County, USA at the Pollock Theater. Before the screening, join us for an opening reception from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. in the Annenberg Room (SSMS 4315) and learn more about upcoming events with the Mellon Sawyer Seminar. This event is free and open to the public, and free ticket reservations are recommended. 

As Santa Barbara approaches the fifty-year commemoration of the 1969 oil spill, this retrospective screening of Harlan County, USA (1976) marks another energy catastrophe that shaped energy and labor policy. Fifty years ago, the Farmington Mine disaster near Mannington, West Virginia killed 78 coal miners and led to new labor protection laws. Barbara Kopple’s film about labor organizing in the coal fields of Appalachia centers the voices of workers and their families in a story about the real costs of energy. Following the film, the audience is invited to stay for an on-stage discussion between Betsy Taylor (LiKEN) and Alice O’Connor (History) about the history and future of coal mining communities in Appalachia. 

There will also be a Student Pop-Up Discussion on Monday, October 15 (12:00 pm - 1:15pm, Girvetz 2320) organized by the Blum Center for Global Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development that will feature Betsy Taylor in conversation with Alice O'Connor (History), Javiera Barandiaran (Global Studies), and Julie Maldonado (Environmental Studies) on workers' rights, energy justice, and economic transition in Appalachia.

Betsy Taylor (Director of Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Netowrk, LiKEN)

Javiera Barandiaran

Betsy Taylor works with communities on the front lines of global coal and timber extraction. She started her work as a cultural anthropologist in the West Virginia coal camps in the 1980s. In the 1990s and early 2000s, she realized how important a regional scale of analysis is to understand the intersection of global extractive economies with local struggles. In her years at the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and Future Generations University, she initiated diverse community / scholarly collaborations for community-driven sustainable development in Appalachia and North East India. She directs the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), a link-tank to support democratic collaboratories of learning that build local livelihoods and wealth by facilitating exchange of knowledge and resources among communities, government and scholars. She and Herbert Reid co-authored Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice, (University of Illinois Press, 2010), and she publishes widely on social and environmental justice movements, participatory planning, energy transition, and the constitution of democratic public space to counter global economic space with place-based claims to embodied life. She served on the steering committee of the US Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI), from 2013-17.

Discussant, Alice O'Connor (History, UCSB)

Alice O’Connor is a Professor of History and Director of the Blum Center for Global Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development at UCSB.  She teaches and writes about poverty and wealth, social and urban policy, the politics of knowledge, and the history of organized philanthropy in the United States.  Among her publications are Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History; Social Science for What? Philanthropy and the Social Question in a World Turned Rightside Up, and the co-edited volumes Beyond the New Deal Order (with Gary Gerstle and Nelson Lichtenstein); Urban Inequality: Evidence from Four Cities (with Chris Tilly and Lawrence Bobo); and Poverty and Social Welfare in the United States: An Encyclopedia (with Gwendolyn Mink).  Her work has appeared in a number of historical and interdisciplinary journals, including the Journal of Urban History, the Journal of Policy History, the Annual Review of Sociology, and the Du Bois Review.  She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Fund for Santa Barbara, a non-profit community foundation that supports grassroots organizations working for social, economic, environmental and political change in Santa Barbara County.


MEDIATING EXTRACTION: Friday, November 2, 2018

3:00 pm - 5:30 pm 
Annenberg Room (SSMS 4315)

Join us for a panel and discussion about the ways that film, photography and new media inform how industrial extraction and its environmental and social consequences are witnessed, documented, and memorialized. The panel includes presentations by the following:

Sharon Daniel (Film + Media, UC Santa Cruz)

“In the Fourth World: At the Frontier of Extractivism, Climate Change, and Colonization”

Sharon Daniel is an artist and media activist who creates interactive and participatory documentaries focused on issues of social, racial and environmental injustice, with a particular focus on mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. Her work has been exhibited in museums and festivals internationally - most recently; in a solo exhibition Secret Injustices, at the Schmidt Center Gallery (US, FL, 2017), as an official selection in the Alternate Realities/Interactives exhibition at Sheffield Doc|Fest (UK, 2016), and in the solo exhibition Convictions at STUK Kunstencentrum, (Belgium, 2013). Daniel was honored by the Webby Awards in 2008 and the Rockefeller/Tribeca Film Festival New Media Fellowship in 2009. In 2017 she was a Fulbright Scholar at Ulster University Belfast School of Art. Daniel is a Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Documentation of exhibitions and links to projects can be found at.

Mona Damluji (Film and Media Studies, UCSB) 

“The Afterlives of Oil Media"

Mona Damluji is Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Peabody and Emmy Award-nominated producer of the short documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims. Her teaching, research and creative work engages underrepresented media histories and cultural studies of oil, urban space and infrastructure with a focus on the Middle East and its diasporas. Mona's current book project is a history of how petroleum companies have mediated images and ideas of oil in the modern Middle East through film and media sponsorship.

Emily Roehl (Mellon Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Scholar

"Aerial Media in the #NoDAPL Struggle"

Emily Roehl is an energy humanities scholar who holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her work focuses on artists and activists who address the unevenly distributed risks of energy development. Roehl is the co-founder of Mystery Spot Books, an artist’s book publisher based in Minneapolis, which is currently producing a multi-publication project on the externalities of energy and industrial waste.

Panel Discussant: Melody Jue (English, UCSB)

Melody Jue is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research and teaching interests concern oceans & the environmental humanities, American literature, digital media & media theory, science fiction, science & technology studies, and the relation between theory and practice. She completed her Ph.D. in the Graduate Program in Literature at Duke University, where she was a recipient of the Katherine Goodman Stern Dissertation Completion Fellowship and James B. Duke Graduate Fellowship. Prior to this, she worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the Open University of Hong Kong. Melody has published articles in Grey Room, Animations: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction, and has forthcoming work in Size & Scale in Literature and Culture. Drawing on the experience of becoming a scuba diver (supported by two Summer Research Fellowships from the Duke Graduate School), her current book project concerns how the ocean shifts our understanding of critical terms in media theory through its conditions of movement, erasure, and dissolution, and how this new understanding might be brought to bear on questions of cultural preservation and environmental justice.

Previous Co-Sponsored Events at UCSB

  • October 2: Unfractured film screening with Mona Damluji and filmmaker Chanda Chevannes. 12:30, MCC Theater.

  • October 29: Book launch for Javiera Barandiaran's Science and Environment in Chile featuring a discussion with David Pellow (Chair of Environmental Studies, UCSB) and Kim Fortun (Anthropology, UC Irvine). 6:00, Mosher Alumni House.
  • Wednesday, November 7:  Grazing the Amazon film screening followed by a discussion and Q & A with producer Eduardo Pegurier and Jeffrey Hoelle (UCSB Anthropology). 12:00pm, MCC Theater.

  • Thursday, November 8: The Capps Center presents a lecture by Professor Greg Johnson (Religious Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder), "Discerning Tradition: Authority, Objects, and the Status of Religion in the Mauna Kea TMT Dispute." 5:30pm, McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020). 

  • Thursday, November 8: The Multicultural Center presents a lecture by Charlie R. Hale, the new SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences at UCSB, on "Race, Rights, and Resources: Bringing 'Home' Three Decades of Activist Research in Latin America." 6:00pm, MCC Theater.

  • Friday, November 16: The Film & Media Studies Department presents a lecture by Nicole Starosielski (Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU Steinhardt), "Media Hot and Cold." SSMS 2135. 3:00pm - 5:00pm.

Previous Events in Santa Barbara County