Benjamin Steininger

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow (Mar 2019-Dez 2022)

Dr. phil.

Benjamin Steininger is a cultural and media theorist, historian of science and technology, and curator. He wrote a book on the history of the German motorway system and a dissertation on the industrial history of catalysis in the twentieth century. In 2016/2017 he taught at the University of Linz (AT) and at the Leuphana University Lüneburg (DE).

His main research fields are the cultural history of energy and acceleration, and the industrial history and theory of the materials of modernity and of the so-called Anthropocene: fuels and refined fossil raw materials, building materials.

At the Humboldt University in Berlin he studied cultural sciences, media theory, and philosophy (supervisor of his master thesis: Prof. Friedrich Kittler). At the University of Vienna, he completed his doctorate in history and philosophy of science (supervisor: Prof. Claus Pias). He held scholarships at the Deutsches Museum Munich (2006), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2006/2007), University of Vienna (2007–2009), IFK International Research Center for Cultural Studies (2009/2010), the Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin (2010/2011), University of Applied Arts in Vienna (2013/2014). He is also involved in the Anthropocene Project at the HKW (Haus der Kulturen der Welt), Berlin.

From 2012 to 2016, he directed a digital collection and exhibition project on the subject of 100 years of the oil industry in Austria (cooperation partners: the Geological Survey of Austria (GBA), OMV AG, RAG, Vienna Technical Museum, University of Vienna, TU Vienna). As a curator, he works in several contexts on a retrospect on the age of fossil industry and culture. In 2017, he co-curated the multi-channel installation “Hydrocarbons” at “1948 Unbound, Entfesselung der Technischen Gegenwart.” He is currently curating an exhibition (Oil! Beauty and Horror in the Age of Petroculture) for Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and Belvedere Vienna (2019).

Benjamin’s current work at the MPIWG deals with the industrial history of energy transformations and in particular with the technicality of chemical energy storage. He curated and coordinated the collaborative symposium “Energy Transformations. Perspectives from the Humanities” (January 17–18, 2017) held by MPIWG and MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion at the Harnack Haus of the MPG. He is also curating and coordinating the symposium “Transformations of Energy Systems—Historical Perspectives on the Anthropocene” for the GSHS of the MPG at Harnack Haus (February 20–21, 2018). He is also a member of the Anthropocene Working Group in Department I.


Anthropocene Knowledge: Earth History in the Making


Fossil Modernity—Technical Materialities and Time Regimes in the Anthropocene


Historical Sources and Contexts of Anthropocene Thinking


IV. Knowledge in and of the Anthropocene


Material Practices: Earth in the Making


Transformations of Energy Systems


The Cultural History of the Concept of Catalysis


Selected Publications

Rosol, C., Steininger, B., Renn, J., & Schlögl, R. (2018). On the age of computation in the epoch of humankind. Nature; Nature Publishing Group, London, (563), 7733-7738.

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Steininger, B. (2019). Petromelancholia and its discontents. The German Times — Business, (October), 10.

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Steininger, B. (2019). Geschichte der Katalyse: die Schlüsselreaktion der Moderne. Der Tagesspiegel, (07.10.).

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Steininger, B. (2019). Aufbruch in eine ungewisse Zukunft. Petersburger Dialog, (30), 10.

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Energy Transformations. Perspectives from the Humanities