cultural anthropologist


I am interested in what people do when the systems they rely upon stop working. Whether speaking of the end of political systems like communism, infrastructural systems like the electric grid, economic systems like whaling, or cultural systems like the contemporary university what unites my work is an abiding concern for both the inventive creativity and the normative impulses that systemic collapse begets. What is the nature of renewal, I ask, and what do people, diversely, make of things when all that is solid fades unexpectedly into air.

              The Grid Book                            The Art Book

                                Early Praise for The Grid

"In The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, Gretchen Bakke dives deep into the history of the electric power grid. Bakke, a cultural anthropologist, also shows how the social sciences help us understand infrastructure and technological management as deeply social qualities."


"The Grid is a lucid and thought-provoking book"          —The Wall Street Journal

" The author keeps the physics and tech talk to the minimum necessary as she leads readers through a history of the grid and a maze of financial, legal, regulatory, and environmental considerations with sprightly good humor. Bakke's analysis is confident and evenhanded; she delivers harsh judgments equally on myopic utility companies, uncomprehending legislators and regulators, and simplistic advocates of renewable energy production for poor planning, lack of vision, and failure to anticipate the consequences of their actions."                                                                                   —Kirkus Review



Gretchen Bakke is an assistant professor of anthropology at McGill University in Montréal, Canada.

Her e-mail address is

CV (Coming Soon)