The settler energy form: Jennifer Matchett, Form Transition: Decarbonization Beyond Settler Modernity, MA Dissertation, Harvard, 2021


Excerpt: Recent discourse about climate change and the spotlight it has put on global energy systems have raised calls for new relationships to energy under a variety of open-ended terms: decarbonization, energy transition, green economy, etc. Following architectural theorist Elise Iturbe [and others], this project understands such calls for energy transition as a deeper contradiction in the structures of global modernity as not just dependent on fossil fuels but in fact shaped by their logic, perpetuated through practices, norms, and institutions in a self-replicating carbon form. Carbon form works to name carbon modernity as form inclusive of the cultural, economic, and political conditions of social life sedimented into a spatial algorithm made possible by a certain source of energy, though not dependent on its continued usage. Thus, as Iturbe writes, “if solar panels are increasing the value of a real estate object, in a precarious neoliberal economy, that is carbon form” – that is, it is not just decarbonization of energy infrastructure but the dismantling of carbon form itself that is needed to break the structural norms of carbon modernity. Drawing on indigenous epistemologies, critical feminist studies, decolonial theory and situated entanglement, this thesis identifies carbon modernity as the persistence of the formal configuration of territory, infrastructure, and neocolonial revenue as the preconditions for carbon form—settler form – and argues that dismantling these cycles of extraction and exploitation require form transition. Form transition must be messier terrain than energy transition, by design.

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