Myles Lennon

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Yale U.

Grant number

Gr. 9417

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Lennon, Myles B., Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Subjects of the Sun: Solar Technologies and Political Imaginaries from Wall Street to West Harlem,' supervised by Dr. Michael R. Dove

Preliminary abstract: My project will explore how solar energy technologies operate at the intersections of race and class to generate radically incommensurate political imaginaries in a racially segregated, gentrifying global city where industrialized energy saturates all lives. I will conduct 14 months of ethnographic research at an international solar energy technology firm (led exclusively by white men) on Wall Street and a grassroots ‘energy democracy’ campaign in a predominantly low-income black community on the other side of Manhattan to investigate how these two disparate social groups utilize solar technologies toward oppositional political ends. While the company uses these technologies to catalyze a ‘post-carbon’ capitalist society and to implement their expert-driven, market-based responses to climate change, the energy democracy campaign utilizes solar technologies as part of a grassroots effort for a worker-owned ‘green collar’ economy led by people of color, connecting anti-racist and anti-capitalist ideologies with local conceptions of environmental protection. At the same time, the company has aligned itself with anti-racist, intersectional politics and the grassroots campaign has embraced the technical knowledge of energy experts, suggesting a convergence of top-down expertise and bottom-up politics. The solar technologies that both groups use are not incidental to these ideological divergences and convergences. I hypothesize that the material properties of solar technologies — the ways they physically interact with and take shape in my interlocutors’ everyday environments — are integral to both the transfer of knowledge and oppositional politics across race and class lines in New York City’s solar energy field.