8th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference
University of Bergamo,
3-6 June 2020
Ethnographies of energy production in times of transition
Panel Organizers : Noura AlKhalili (Lund
University) and Gloria Pessina
(Politecnico di Milano)
We invite contributions on cases from the Global South and North. If you are interested to join our panel, please send an abstract (max 1000 words) including the title of the paper and your affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by January 10th 2020. For more detailed info on submission check this link: http://www.etnografiaricercaqualitativa.it/how-to-submit
Keywords: electric power stations; energy
transition; large-scale renewable energy plants; energy justice; workplace ethnographies.
Emerging disciplines such as the Energy Humanities (Szeman &
Boyer 2017) are currently showing the need to overcome strict scientific
boundaries in order to grasp the complexity of the current socio-economic and
ecological transition at multiple geographical scales. It is in this framework
that recent studies on energy ethnography have taken place (Smith & High
2017; Goodman 2018), mostly with the aim of shedding light on the social and
material dimension of apparently invisible energy infrastructures. Only few
studies adopted an ethnographic approach to research on energy production
places (Bougleux 2012), be it traditional workplaces such as thermoelectric (or
nuclear) power stations or more recently renewable energy power plants and
territories, probably due to the difficulty of accessing the field. Several
researches engaged with the ethnography of energy consumption, investigating
values, practices and habits of the end-users (Strauss et. al 2013), while
others paid more attention to the impacts on everyday life of mineral
extraction and energy production, especially in the Global South (Sawyer 2014;
Howe & Boyer 2016).
Lately, emerging research is tackling EU’s decarbonisation
strategy and mitigation of climate change through investigating transition to
renewable energies. Specifically, the Saharan desert of North Africa is perceived as a vast untapped
supply of nearby renewable energy. Equally, North African countries are highly
interested in energy transitions to renewables for both domestic use and
export. There is not much research around large-scale renewable energy
production schemes and only a few studies mention issues of land ownership and
the presence of communities in these areas (Rignall 2016).
Clearly, more empirical research – and ethnographic – is needed to
focus on culture, power, social relations and the people’s lived experiences in
and around energy production plants. Ethnography is crucial so to bring to the
fore elements such as gender differences and other less visible power relations
in the context of study. It also helps to contextualize the ontological
positions and subjectivities of people and gives local meaning to the relation
to technology, society and environment. Therefore, this call for papers invites
either ethnographic or qualitative contributions that deal with themes around
energy transition and climate justice, highlighting aspects related to
communities around both renewable and traditional energy production plants,
issues of land enclosures, manufacturing processes, local participation for
just energy production and transfer.
1. How is energy produced
in times of ecological transition and economic crisis?
2. How can energy
production work be observed and described by ethnographers?
3. What is the role of
the human work in traditional and renewable energy production? How does it
interact with machine work?
4. Which power relations
characterize traditional energy production workplaces (e.g. thermoelectric
power stations) and renewable energy production territories (e.g. solar power
5. Which forms of local
resistance to new energy production plants or to the dismantling of underused
traditional plants can be recognized?
6. To what extent do
energy production workplaces and territories shed light on the current
7. Which territories are
currently emerging in the global energy production geography? Which are
8. To what extent
large-scale renewable energy production schemes are bound to be a new form of
Bougleux E., 2012,Soggetti egemoni e saperi
subalterni. Etnografia in una multinazionale del settore dell’energia, Firenze: Nardini.
Goodman J., 2018, “Researching climate crisis and energy transition:
Some issues for ethnography”,Energy Research &
Social Science, 45: 340-347.
Howe C., Boyer D., 2016, “Aeolian extractivism and community win in
Southern Mexico”,Public Culture, 28 (2(79)): 215-235.
Huber M., 2015, “Energy and social power. From political ecology to
the ecology of politics”. In: Perreault T., Bridge G., Mac Carthy J. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology, Oxon: Routledge.
Rignall, K., 2016, “Solar Power, State Power, and the Politics of
Energy Transition in Pre-Saharan Morocco”, Environment and Planning
Sawyer S., 2014, Crude Chronicles. Indigenous Politics, Multinational
Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador, Durham: Duke University Press.
Smith J., High M.M., 2017, “Exploring the anthropology of energy:
Ethnography, energy and ethics”,Energy Research &
Social Science, 30: 1-6.
Strauss S., Rupp S., Love T., 2013,Cultures of Energy:
Power, Practices, Technologies, London: Routledge.
Szeman I., Boyer D., 2017, Energy Humanities: An Anthology, Baltimore: John Hopkins