Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ryan Cecil Jobson is among the 2023 cohort receiving a Faculty Seed Grant award from the Social Sciences Research Center for his project, The Uninhabitable Archipelago: Solar Energy and Climate Futures in the Caribbean. Launched in 2018, the SSRC Faculty Seed Grant Program provides one- to two-year grants to support early stage or novel research, with a special focus on projects that transcend the boundaries of any one discipline. 

The Uninhabitable Archipelago: Solar Energy and Climate Futures in the Caribbean

On September 8, 2017, Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. After the storm, the National Emergency Management Agency declared the island “uninhabitable” due to its lack of public institutions and services. Accordingly, the fate of this island embodied the larger struggle for habitability in a region on the front lines of climate crisis. The life-and-death stakes of this struggle heightened in September 2019, when Hurricane Dorian struck the Abaco Islands with more than seventy deaths confirmed after the storm. In the Caribbean, climate change represents a decisive battleground for a habitable future. With the aid of multinational capital, solar microgrids are promoted to insulate the region from climatic threats. Throughout the age of fossil fuels, the capture of solar energy fueled fantasies of limitless growth unmoored from the material confines of carbon fuels. “The Uninhabitable Archipelago” will examine the production of this fantasy by entrepreneurs, technocrats, and politicians and the laborious realities of microgrid installation and maintenance. Through ethnographic research with corporate officials, renewable energy engineers, microgrid technicians, and solar energy consumers, this project considers how the political horizon of habitability is secured against the existential threat of climate collapse in the Caribbean.