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Maxwell School

Matthew T. Huber

Associate Professor, Geography

Matthew Huber

Contact Information
mthuber@maxwell.syr.edu

522 Eggers Hall
(315) 443-3845

Degree

Ph.D., Clark University, 2009

Specialties

Political economy, historical geography, energy and capitalism, oil, resource governance and social theory

Publications

Book:
2013. Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press).

Articles: 
2015. “Theorizing energy geographies” Geography Compass 9(6): 27-38.

2015. “Energy and Social Power: From Political Ecology to the Ecology of Politics” In, The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology, edited by Tom Perreault, James McCarthy, and Gavin Bridge (London: Routledge), 481-492.

2015. “Oil for Life: The Bureau of Mines and the Biopolitics of the Petroleum Market,” Subterranean Estates: Lifeworlds of Oil and Gas, edited by Hannah Appel, Arthur Mason, and Michael Watts (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), 31-44. 

2013. Fueling Capitalism: Oil, the regulation approach, and the ecology of capital. Economic Geography 89(2): 171-194.

2013. Apocalypse, the radical left and the post-political condition. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (with Mazen Labban and David Correia)

2013. The urban imaginary of nature: Cities in environmental politics, Urban Politics: Critical Approaches, edtied by Deborah Martin and Mark Davidson (Sage), 204-220.

2012. Refined politics: Petroleum products, neoliberalism, and the ecology of entrepreneurial life. Journal of American Studies 46 (2): 295-312 (special issue on “oil cultures”)

2012. Energy, environment and the geopolitical imagination. Political Geography 31 (6): 402-403 (invited review essay)

2011. Enforcing scarcity: Oil, violence and the making of the market. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101 (4): 816-826 (special issue on energy).

2011. Intervention: Gusher in the Gulf and the despotism of capital. Antipode 43(2): 195-198 (editorial on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill).

2011. Oil, life and the fetishism of geopolitics. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.22(3): 32-48.

2011. Extracting sovereignty: Capital, territory, and gold mining in Tanzania. Political Geography 30(2): 70-79 (with Jody Emel and Madoshi Makene).

2011. The richest hole on earth? Labor, nature and the politics of metabolism at the Bingham Canyon copper mine. In Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects, S.D. Brunn, A. Wood (eds.), 353-366 (with Jody Emel). 

2010. Circuits of capital. In B. Warf (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Geography, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

2010. Human ecology and energy. In B. Warf (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Geography, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

2010.  Hyphenated geographies: The deindustrialization of nature-society geography. Geographical Review 100 (1): 74-89. 

2009. The use of gasoline: Value, oil, and the “American way of life.” Antipode 41 (3): 465-486.

2009. Energizing historical materialism: Fossil fuels, space and the capitalist mode of production. Geoforum 40(1): 105-115. 

2009. Fixed minerals, scalar politics: The weight of scale in conflicts over 'the 1872 Mining Act' in the United States. Environment and Planning A 41 (2): 371-88 (with Jody Emel). 

2008. From lifeblood to addiction: Oil, space, and the wage-relation in petro-capitalist USA. Human Geography 1(2): 42-45. 

2008. A risky business: Mining, rent and the neoliberalization of “risk.” Geoforum 39 (3): 1393-1407 (with Jody Emel). 

2007. The urbanization of an idea: Imagining nature through urban growth boundary policy in Portland, OR, USA. Urban Geography 28(8): 705-731 (with Timothy Currie). 

2007. Global environmental standards for industry. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 32: 295-316 (with David Angel and Trina Hamilton).

Research Interests

I am interested in three areas. (1) The relationships between oil, capitalism, and the politics of “life” in the United States. (2) The history and political economy of petrochemical fertilizer production. (3) The role of capital investment in shaping governance and property relations in mining territories.

(1) My dissertation research had led to the publication of the book, Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom and the Forces of Capital (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).  Looking beyond the usual culprits-Big Oil, petro-states, and the strategists of empire-the book finds a deeper and more complex explanation for our 'oil addiction' in everyday practices of oil consumption. I suggest that those practices have in fact been instrumental in shaping the broader cultural politics of American capitalism. The book traces the relations between oil and everyday life from the 1930s through the oil shocks of the 1970s to our present predicament, revealing that oil's role in defining popular culture extends far beyond material connections between oil, suburbia, and automobility. I argue that oil powered a cultural politics of entrepreneurial life-the very American idea that life itself is a product of individual entrepreneurial capacities. In so doing, I use oil to retell American political history from the triumph of New Deal liberalism to the rise of the New Right; from oil's celebration as the lifeblood of postwar capitalism to increasing anxieties over oil addiction. 

(2) My new project focuses on what might be called uncharismatic ecologies -- industrialized spaces of intensive material and energy throughput and waste production. Given my prior research on petroleum, I have begun new project on the petrochemical industry in general, and the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer industry in particular. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the historical development and political economy of nitrogen's “industrial metabolism” -- the deployment of tremendous amounts of natural gas (both as energy and feedstock) in the chemical “fixing” of nitrogen in large-scale factories. More broadly, I am concerned with the ecological implications of the mass application of synthetic nitrogen in agriculture (involving significant disruptions to the 'nitrogen cycle' and water pollution), and the wider dependence of our food system on energy-intensive fertilizer. 

(3) I remain interested in the relations between the state, capital and the territorial control over mineral resources in multiple contexts.  I was involved in a long-term research project with Jody Emel (Clark University) on gold mining policy in Tanzania. Specifically, we examined the tensions between sovereignty and territoriality that inform the state's legal ownership of all sub-surface minerals and their attempts to attract foreign direct investment.  I have also examined the geographies of mineral extraction in the United States from copper mining in Bingham Canyon, UT to the scalar politics of the “1872 Mining Act.” Living on the north side of the enormous “Marcellus Shale” gas formation, I am also interested in the emerging political geographies of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) and its socioecological consequences.

Research Grants and Awards

2014. National Science Foundation, Geography and Spatial Sciences, $192,777.00 “The Nitrogen Fertilizer Industry: Integrating Industrial Ecology and Political Ecology Approaches”.

2014. James Blaut Award in recognition of innovative scholarship in cultural and political ecology, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, The Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Tampa, Fl.

2014. The Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for Teaching and Research, (junior faculty) Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse, NY.

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