In her inaugural lecture, the cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke gives an overview about the history of the fossil fueled electricity system and highlights its relationship to the refrigerator.

Refrigerator as Linchpin: A Brief History of the Fossil Fueled Electricity System

30 June 2023, 13.15-14.45
Hybrid: IRI THESys, Rudower Chaussee 12B, 12489 Berlin, room 3.25
or on Zoom (Meeting ID: 659 0270 6903, Passcode: 007766)

The relationship between the refrigerator and the electric grid is much the opposite of what we assume. Rather than the grid being there for the fridge, the fridge is there for the grid. In this talk Gretchen Bakke explains how the electric refrigerator was made and marketed as means of supporting the physical properties of fossil fueled power plants, which need to be on all the time to work well. By providing a constant draw on the grid (baseload consumption) the refrigerator is both an essential element of an electrical system built upon these fuels and also a thorn in the side of the project of actualizing a renewably powered grid.

Beneath this pragmatic and minorly revolutionary suggestion to pull out the fridge and watch the fossil fueled electricity system crumble, the essay is a very anthropological undertaking in that it treats the refrigerator as mechanism for holding patterns of thought and habits of living and as a sort of kin, a quirky being with whom we live. Though a serious and historical investigation of an appliance, in the talk Gretchen Bakke tries to make intimacy of our relationship with this bit of technology affectively clear, though kindly and playful prose. The stakes are high, but the approach is as fresh and crisp as those veggies we store inside this ubiquitous device.

Gretchen Bakke is a Senior Fellow at the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) and a Member of IRI THESys at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she is a writer, photographer, and ethnographer with a strong interest in socio-cultural transformations and, most especially, the material dimensions of substantive change. With this lecture Gretchen Bakke completes her habilitation.

Further information

The event will be held in English. Entrance is free of charge.

Photo credits: Ida Marie Tangeraas