Ethnographies of Power. A Political Anthropology of Energy

Energy related infrastructures are crucial to political organization. They shape the contours of states and international bodies, as well as corporations and communities, framing their material existence and their fears and idealisations of the future. Ethnographies of Power brings together ethnographic studies of contemporary entanglements of energy and political power. Revisiting classic anthropological notions of power, it asks how changing energy related infrastructures are implicated in the consolidation, extension or subversion of contemporary political regimes and discovers what they tell us about politics today.


Introduction: Politicizing Energy Anthropology
Tristan Loloum, Simone Abram and Nathalie Ortar

Chapter 1. Southern Spectrums: The Raw to the Smooth Edges of Energopower
Raminder Kaur

Chapter 2. Ecuadorian Amazonia amidst Energy Transitions
Chris Hebdon

Chapter 3. ‘Nepal’s Water, the People’s Investment’? Hydropolitical Volumes and Speculative Refrains
Austin Lord and Matthäus Rest

Chapter 4. Energopolitics in Times of Climate Change: Productive and Unproductive Politics of Energy Infrastructures in Poland
Aleksandra Lis

Chapter 5. The Earth is Trembling, and We Are Shaken: Governmentality and Resistance in the Groningen Gas Field
Elisabeth N. Moolenaar

Chapter 6. Delving at the Core of Everyday Life: Between Power Legacies and Political Struggles, the Case of Wood-Burning Stoves in France
Nathalie Ortar

Afterword: People Thinking Energetically
Leo Coleman

Ethnographies of Power Edited by Tristan Loloum, Simone Abram and Nathalie Ortar is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) with support from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Ethnographies of Power is the first edited volume of the Energy Anthropology Network.

New book on the Coal Rush

Hot of the press with Cambridge University Press: 

Climate change makes fossil fuels unburnable, yet global coal production has almost doubled over the last 20 years. This book explores how the world can stop mining coal – the most prolific source of greenhouse gas emissions. It documents efforts at halting coal production, focusing specifically on how campaigners are trying to stop coal mining in India, Germany, and Australia. Through in-depth comparative ethnography, it shows how local people are fighting to save their homes, livelihoods, and environments, creating new constituencies and alliances for the transition from fossil fuels. The book relates these struggles to conflicts between global climate policy and the national coal-industrial complex. With coal’s meaning transformed from an important asset to a threat, and the coal industry declining, it charts reasons for continuing coal dependence, and how this can be overcome. It will provide a source of inspiration for energy transition for researchers in environment, sustainability, and politics, as well as policymakers.

Local Cognitive and Affective Responses to Wind Power Projects

We like to bring to your attention a new open access article just published in Energy Research & Social Science out of the Center for Research in Wind (CReW) at the University of Delaware.
Russell, A., and Firestone, J. 2021. What’s love got to do with it? Understanding Local Cognitive and Affective Responses to Wind Power Projects, Energy Research & Social Science, 71, 101833, (open access)
In our article titled What’s love got to do with it? Understanding Local Cognitive and Affective Responses to Wind Power Projects , we revisit the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s National Survey of Wind Project Neighbors. We utilize a dual-process model of community attitude formation based on both the rational cognitive and emotional affective branches of perception.
Our findings provide insight into the different emotional and cognitive predictors of attitudes in wind project neighbors as well as how emotions including anger and pride appear to dominate. We’ve also paid particular attention to the differences between those neighbors who live near wind projects that were built either before or after they themselves moved in.
Please find the article using the following link:
Science direct link is

New blog for energy ethics research, ENERGY BLOG

The Energy Ethics Research Group at the University of St Andrews is excited to announce the launch of the ENERGY BLOG ( by .  

In this blog, they share anecdotes from their research, insights from the field, and reflections on issues of energy. The blog reflects the multi-disciplinary aim of the Energy Ethics Research Group to consider the sensibilities, events, processes and materials central to issues of energy.  

If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please do get in touch!  You can reach them at: Other details on their website:  

New interdisciplinary publications on energy use and energy demand

For five years, the research councils in the UK ran in an innovative research program focused on energy use and energy demand. This program supported six interdisciplinary centres

They set themselves the arduous task of trying to synthesize across projects, case studies and data some high-level, crosscutting findings. The below publications came out of this effort:

  • Sovacool, BK, B Turnheim, M Martiskainen, D Brown and Paula Kivimaa.  “Guides or gatekeepers? Incumbent-oriented transition intermediaries in a low-carbon era,” Energy Research & Social Science 66 (August, 2020), 101490, pp. 1-17, available fully open access at
  • Sovacool, BK, N Bergman, D Hopkins, KEH Jenkins, S Hielscher, A Goldthau, and B Brossmann.  “Imagining our sustainable energy future: Valence, temporality, and radicalism in the visions surrounding seven low-carbon innovations,” Social Studies of Science 50(4) (Winter, 2020), pp. 642–679, available fully open access at

Publication on cooking patterns and energy transfer programmes in Peru

Sharing with you a new qualitative research exploring cooking patterns, attitudes towards energy transfer programmes and factors influencing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) use in the rural Andean Peru recently published in the journal Energy for Sustainable Development. The study findings underline the importance of taking into account beneficiaries’ perspectives when assessing LPG interventions to facilitate sustained LPG transitions and improve monitoring mechanism of LPG interventions to make them more effective and accessible. Hence, the study can especially be interesting for those researchers focused on the relations between sustainable clean energy transitions, cooking technology use and energy policy development in low- and middle-income countries.

Available for free at 

Electrifying Anthropology

Electrifying Anthropology. Exploring Electrical Practices and Infrastructures

Editor(s): Simone Abram, Brit Ross Winthereik, Thomas Yarrow

What kinds of expertise and knowledge relate to electricity, and where is the space for alternative voices? How can the new roles for electricity in social and cultural life be acknowledged? How can we speak about ‘it’ in its own right while acknowledging that electricity is not one thing?

This book re-describes electricity and its infrastructures using insights from anthropology and science and technology studies, raising fascinating questions about the contemporary world and its future. Through ethnographic studies of bulbs, bicycles, dams, power grids and much more, the contributors shed light on practices that are often overlooked, showing how electricity is enacted in multiple ways. Electrifying Anthropology moves beyond the idea of electricity as an immovable force, and instead offers a set of potential trajectories for thinking about electricity and its effects in contemporary society.

With new contributions on an emerging area of research, this timely collection will be of value to students and scholars of anthropology, science and technology studies, geography and engineering.

Table of contents

1. Current Thinking – An Introduction
Simone Abram, Durham University, UK, Brit Winthereik, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark & Tom Yarrow, Durham University, UK

2. Electricity is Not a Noun
Gretchen Bakke, McGill University, Canada

3. Widened Reason and Deepened Optimism: Electricity and Morality in Durkheim’s Anthropology and Our Own
Leo Coleman, Hunter College, USA

4. No Current: Electricity and Disconnection in Rural India
Jamie Cross, University of Edinburgh, UK

5. What the E-bike Tells Us About the Anthropology of Energy
Nathalie Ortar, CNRS, France

6. At the Edge of the Network of Power in Japan, c.1910s-1960s
Hiroki Shin, Birkbeck University London, UK

7. Can the Mekong Speak? On Hydropower, Models and Thing-Power
Casper Bruun Jensen, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

8. Electrification and the Everyday Spaces of State Power in Postcolonial Mozambique
Joshua Kirshner, University of York, UK & Marcus Power, Durham University, UK

9. Big Grid: The Computing Beast that Preceded Big Data
Canay Özden-Schilling, MIT, USA

10. Touring the Nuclear Sublime: Power Plant Tours as Tools of Government
Tristan Loloum, Lausanne University, Switzerland

11. Afterword: Electricity as Inspiration – Towards Indeterminate Interventions
Sarah Pink, RMIT University, Australia

L’énergie et ses usages domestiques. Anthropologie d’une transition en cours

Nathalie Ortar et Hélène Subrèmon (eds)

La transition énergétique en cours au sein de nombreuses sociétés industrialisées se caractérise par le passage progressif d’un système fondé sur l’utilisation illimitée d’énergies fossiles, à un système fondé sur l’utilisation d’énergies renouvelables et sur des comportements plus sobres. Cette transition affecte tous nos modes de vie. Les changements en cours, tout autant que les enjeux socio-techniques qu’ils impliquent, mettent en évidence le fonctionnement intrinsèque des sociétés. Ils donnent aussi à voir la façon dont ces dernières se pensent et se projettent.

L’énergie et ses usages domestiques s’intéresse dès lors aux transformations à l’œuvre dans l’utilisation quotidienne ou usuelle des ressources énergétiques. Cet ouvrage interroge notamment la tension perceptible entre les prescriptions au changement, et les pratiques routinières. Les analyses déployées ici prennent ainsi appui sur plusieurs exemples européens, et mobilisent diverses approches théoriques ou disciplinaires (anthropologie, sociologie, histoire). Elles permettent d’accéder à une compréhension plus fine des évolutions et des résistances, passées ou présentes, dans les façons ordinaires de consommer des ressources énergétiques.

La complexité de la relation à l’énergie est ainsi abordée en se plaçant du côté des acteurs, professionnels comme civils, avec l’objectif de donner à lire l’impact des choix politiques et techniques sur le quotidien des pratiques. Qu’il s’agisse d’étudier la mise en service des compteurs Linky en France, ou bien la promotion des énergies renouvelables dans différents contextes géographiques et économiques, ou encore la prise en compte de la précarité énergétique, l’ambition de ce collectif est à chaque fois de rendre visible les enjeux tant sociaux que symboliques entourant la production de l’énergie et ses usages les plus ordinaires. Sommaire: 

Introduction. Le quotidien de la transition énergétique

1. Une révolution de l’œil. Lumière électrique et gouvernement du visible, 1870-1914

2. Cuire avec ou sans flamme ? Le gaz en transition énergétique, de la modernité à la défaveur

3. Les temporalités de l’énergie renouvelable à l’heure de l’austérité grecque

4. Les contradictions d’une transition énergétique morcelée

5. Petits producteurs d’énergie solaire en Corse : routines domestiques et rapports sociaux locaux à l’énergie en contexte semi-insulaire

6. La transition énergétique au prisme des logiques d’action : diversité et dynamiques d’appropriation

7. « Le compteur Linky bientôt chez vous ». Les régulations de proximité à l’épreuve de nouveaux mécontentements locaux

8. Pratiques de consommation et culture familiale en contexte de crise de l’énergie : entre adaptation et résistance au changement

9. La sobriété bricolée. Modalités d’adaptation des ménages modestes en transformation

10. De l’inconfort aux contraintes matérielles, du repli domestique aux pratiques adaptatives : vécus en précarité énergétique dans une région de Wallonie

Résumés des textes par ordre alphabétique du premier auteur de l’article (biobibliographie)

Avec les contributions de : Françoise Bartiaux, Sophie Bouly de Lesdain, Cécile Caron, Aude Danieli, Isabelle Garabuau-Moussaoui, Christophe Granger, Daniel M. Knight, Willy Lahaye, Nathalie Ortar, Magali Pierre, Laurence Raineau, Amélie Sibeni, Hélène Subrémon, Jean-Pierre Williot.


New book from MIT Press: Energy at the End of the World: an Orkney Islands Saga.

Energy at the End of the Worldauthor: Laura Watts

Making local energy futures, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel, at the edge of the world.

The islands of Orkney, off the northern coast of Scotland, are closer to the Arctic Circle than to London. Surrounded by fierce seas and shrouded by clouds and mist, the islands seem to mark the edge of the known world. And yet they are a center for energy technology innovation, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel networks, attracting the interest of venture capitalists and local communities. In this book, Laura Watts tells a story of making energy futures at the edge of the world.

Orkney, Watts tells us, has been making technology for six thousand years, from arrowheads and stone circles to wave and tide energy prototypes. Artifacts and traces of all the ages—Stone, Bronze, Iron, Viking, Silicon—are visible everywhere. The islanders turned to energy innovation when forced to contend with an energy infrastructure they had outgrown. Today, Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, established in 2003. There are about forty open-sea marine energy test facilities in the world, many of which draw on Orkney expertise. The islands generate more renewable energy than they use, are growing hydrogen fuel and electric car networks, and have hundreds of locally owned micro wind turbines and a decade-old smart grid. Mixing storytelling and ethnography, empiricism and lyricism, Watts tells an Orkney energy saga—an account of how the islands are creating their own low-carbon future in the face of the seemingly impossible. The Orkney Islands, Watts shows, are playing a long game, making energy futures for another six thousand years.


Recently published (open access): Perceptions of Commercial and Recreational Fishers on the Potential Ecological Impacts of the Block Island Wind Farm (US)

Block Island Wind Farm (photo by A. Calianos)
Block Island Wind Farm (photo by A. Calianos)

By Talya S. ten Brink and Tracy Dalton

This is an article on impacts of the first offshore wind farm in North America on marine resource users/fishermen. These open access findings can inform offshore wind farm planning and development in the United States, especially because fishermen are a major user group impacting offshore wind development. You can find the whole text here: 

Last special issue of Energy Research & Social Science

The editors of Energy Research & Social Science have decided to no longer produce any special issues. However, they are going out with a bang. The link below will give you access to their last special issue.

Two new books in Energy Society Series from West Virginia Press

Oil and Urbanization on the Pacific Coast: Ralph Bramel Lloyd and the Shaping of the Urban West by Michael Adamson

Oil and Urbanization on the Pacific Coast tells the story of oilman Ralph Bramel Lloyd, a small business owner who drove the development of one of America’s largest oil fields. Lloyd invested his petroleum earnings in commercial real estate—much of it centered on automobiles and the fuel they require—in several western cities, notably Portland, Oregon. Putting the history of extractive industry in dialogue with the history of urban development, Michael R. Adamson shows how energy is woven into the fabric of modern life, and how the “energy capital” of Los Angeles exerted far-flung influence in the US West.

A contribution to the relatively understudied history of small businesses in the United States, Oil and Urbanization on the Pacific Coast explores issues of interest to multiple audiences, such as the competition for influence over urban development waged among local growth machines and outside corporate interests; the urban rivalries of a region; the importance of public capital in mobilizing the commercial real estate sector during the Great Depression and World War II; and the relationships among owners, architects, and contractors in the execution of commercial building projects.

Oil and Nation: A History of Bolivia’s Petroleum Sector by Stephen Cote

Oil and Nation places petroleum at the center of Bolivia’s contentious twentieth-century history. Bolivia’s oil, Cote argues, instigated the largest war in Latin America in the 1900s, provoked the first nationalization of a major foreign company by a Latin American state, and shaped both the course and the consequences of Bolivia’s transformative National Revolution of 1952. Oil and natural gas continue to steer the country under the government of Evo Morales, who renationalized hydrocarbons in 2006 and has used revenues from the sector to reduce poverty and increase infrastructure development in South America’s poorest country.

The book advances chronologically from Bolivia’s earliest petroleum pioneers in the nineteenth century until the present, inserting oil into historical debates about Bolivian ethnic, racial, and environmental issues, and within development strategies by different administrations. While Bolivia is best known for its tin mining, Oil and Nation makes the case that nationalist reformers viewed hydrocarbons and the state oil company as a way to modernize the country away from the tin monoculture and its powerful backers and toward an oil-powered future.

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