The Energy Anthropology Network (short: EAN) was founded in summer 2016 with the purpose of bringing together anthropologists concerned with energy research, to coordinate and consolidate debates about energies, and to support new anthropological approaches to energy questions.
Around the world, anthropologists are asking how energy is generated and used, how energy is conceptualised, the role of energy in shaping and articulating states and societies, and diverse relationships characterised as markets, households, families, companies and corporations. Ethnographic work is accumulating on energy concepts and effects such as energy justice and energy ethics, in relation to resource exploitation, distribution, sharing and exchange, in relation to development ideologies, socio-economic regimes, political trajectories, and so forth, with a strong element of comparative empirical research. Anthropologies of energy are highlighting connections between different forms of energy, energy transformations, how energy practices are embedded in diverse everyday contexts from the domestic to systems of domination, as well as questioning the potential for energy crises at different scales. More than ever anthropologists need to question the indivisibility of socio-technological systems and analyse how energetic networks underpin economic, political and social relations at different scales.
As the theme of energy emerges increasingly strongly in anthropological research, an organised approach to comparative and collaborative research is timely, as anthropologists bring critical insight based on ethnographic research. EASA EAN will be a forum for such creative and collaborative discussions.
To bring together social scientists and practitioners with common interest on energy
The network is open to people from a variety of backgrounds: practitioners and decision-makers interested in broadening their understanding of energy, students and academics involved in applied projects or fundamental research. The network’s activities will include regular meetings at academic events (primarily EASA ), online exchange, publications and newsfeeds (mailing list, webpage).
To make energy issues more visible
One of the objectives of an anthropology of energy is to problematize energy infrastructures that are often taken for granted, remaining invisible, unnoticed or unquestioned because they are already deeply embedded in ordinary practice, or imposed by national choices which surpass us. Ethnographies of energy are helping people to perceive the energetic infrastructures (both physical, social and powerful) that produce everyday life, empowering people to reconsider their energy practices.
To propose alternative understandings of energy systems.
Energy is an inspiring topic for fundamental research. In concrete terms, energy systems and infrastructures deserve greater attention from anthropologists not only because contemporary societies face important environmental and energetic challenges, but also because energy has always been inherently constitutive of human cultures. At the same time, there is an increasing demand from engineers and policy-makers for help in understanding the social, cultural and political implications of energy systems in order to improve the relevance and efficiency of their action. While anthropologists can play an important role in helping to implement new energy technologies and by facilitating their social appropriation, they can also help technicians to work through the broader questions of social justice that such technologies imply.
To support independent and critical studies on energy choices.
The existence of an independent network within a scholarly association is also pertinent in a context where more and more research projects on energy are demand-driven and privately funded. The EAN will represent an academic space for the development of a fundamental and critical understanding of energy issues.
To spark public debate, encourage community outreach and feed research agendas
The network encourages initiatives to export energy anthropology concerns outside the academic sphere, whether this is through community projects, media interventions or institutional engagements. The EASA EAN will be the main point of contact for informing the agenda for ethnographic and anthropological energy research calls, not least in relation to the European Commission.