Canay Özden-Schilling

Canay Özden-Schilling

Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow

Mergenthaler 456
Tuesdays 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

My work is in the intersection of economic anthropology, science and technology studies, and the anthropology of infrastructures. Broadly, I am interested in the conjoined infrastructures of energy and capitalism, the dissemination of economic forms of life, and the role of scientists and engineers in market-building and maintenance. I received my Ph.D. in 2016 from the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

My book manuscript, Economy Electric, is an ethnography of electricity markets in the United States, based on fieldwork with electricity traders, urban electrical grid engineers, and citizen activists. Electricity is an unruly commodity that defies storage; less than two decades-old, electricity markets are quirky new creations that blend various forms of science and engineering expertise. The book follows data analysts and electrical engineers at work, as they act as economists of electricity and, by extension, of daily life. It shows how ordinary citizens get conscripted to markets by virtue of using electricity and how, occasionally, they set their minds on subverting them. I argue that various economic agendas, from neoliberalism to free enterprise, have roots in the practice of electricity exchange and, in turn, get reinforced in society through mundane activities like electricity use. Contributing to anthropology and science & technology studies, this book is a map to the everyday infrastructures of economy and energy into which we are plugged as citizens of a technological world.

My articles have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Economic Anthropology, Annals of Science, and Limn. Prior to coming to Baltimore, I held positions at Brandeis, Tufts, and George Washington Universities. I hold a M.A. degree in Near Eastern Studies from New York University and intend to return to the Middle East and my native Turkey for my next project on oil storage and trading in port cities.

“Big Grid: The Computing Beast That Preceded Big Data.” In Current Thinking: Electricity and Anthropology, edited by Simone Abram, Brit Ross Winthereik, and Thomas Yarrow. London: Bloomsbury Press. (Forthcoming)

“Economy Electric.” Cultural Anthropology 30 (4), 2015: 578-588.

“The Infrastructure of Markets: From Electric Power to Electronic Data.” Economic Anthropology 3 (1), 2016: 68-80.

“The Pontifex Minimus: William Willcocks and Engineering British Colonialism.” Annals of Science 71 (2), 2014: 183-205.

“Expertise in the Grid: Electricity and Its Publics.” Limn, 2016, special issue on Public Infrastructures/Infrastructural Publics.