CFP Taking Care of Energy Infrastructures (STS Conference, Graz, 4-6 May)

For those who “care” for energy infrastructures (or work with people who do), please consider sharing or contributing to this session at the STS Conference in Graz (Austria), 4-6 May. Description below.

The abstract needs to be submitted using the online form. It should not exceed 500 words, max. 5 keywords. Choose the number of the session in which your presentation should be included (Thematic field “Towards Low-Carbon Energy Systems”; session “C.7 Taking care of energy infrastructures”).

Submission deadline for abstracts is January 20, 2020.

C.7 Taking care of energy infrastructures

Loloum, Tristan, Fürst, Moritz, Bovet, Alain (Université de Lausanne)

The energy transition is often framed in terms of a technological challenge and an engineering problem, involving innovative design, efficient planning, and effective optimization of energy infrastructures and the built environment. This innovation-centric view tends to neglect the fact that ‘change’ often occurs once energy systems are already in place, through incremental adaptations, additions and enhancements. The focus on engineers, planners and designers also puts aside the many actors in charge of operating and maintaining such systems on a daily basis: grid operators, HVAC technicians, facility managers, installers, caretakers, etc.

Drawing on authors like Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), Dona Haraway (2016) and Bruno Latour (2013), we argue that fixing ‘things’ and taking care of energy infrastructure implies more than maintaining their technical functioning: it means caring for the people who use them and their environments, and it requires active engagement, social skills and a sense of concern towards associations between humans and non-humans. The session therefore extends on current debates in science and technology studies and energy social science that (I) observe how classical dichotomies (e.g. between planning and operation, professionals and users, engineers and technicians, people and machines) are maintained, and sometimes contested and reconfigured; (II) investigate energy infrastructure and energy transition at the level of everyday lay and professional care-taking activities, i.e. considering energy practices as situated and culturally embedded realities rather than in terms of dominant paradigms of technological innovation and economic rationality.


This panel session invites contributors from all disciplinary horizons, looking at energy infrastructure “from below and within”, focusing on operation routines, control rooms, repair and maintenance, incremental improvements, “middle actors” (technicians, installers, controllers, caretakers, facility managers), disruption, practices of daily-use and socio-technical encounters. We particularly encourage prospective participants to emphasize the richness of empirical material in their presentations, exhibit visual and/or audio data, or even material objects that can form a basis for a fruitful discussion. If appropriate conditions are in place, the session will be introduced or followed up by a quick tour of the conference venue’s infrastructural backstage and a discussion with one of the building’s facility managers in order to get a concrete grasp of what energy infrastructure is, and what taking care of it actually entails.

KEYWORDS: energy infrastructure, care, operation, repair & maintenance, energy practices

Deadline approaching CFP EASA 2020 (Lisbon July 21-24)!

January 20th is the deadline for paper proposals for EASA 2020 (to be held in Lisbon July 21-24). There are several panels dealing with energy that EAN encourages you to submit to (or share with interested friends) before the deadline.

P020 At the grid edge: homes, neighbourhoods and energy markets (Energy Anthropology Network)

Convenors:

Charlotte Johnson (University College London)

Abhigyan Singh (Delft University of Technology (TU Delft))

Across Europe the grid edge has become a site of innovation, experimentation and legal exception. Extra-regulatory markets such as peer-to-peer energy trading are being trialled. Algorithms and control systems are being piloted to automate household appliances. Communities are becoming virtual power plants. The emerging distributed, decentralised, and off-grid energy systems profoundly challenge the universalist logic of national energy infrastructures and create an urgent role for anthropological knowledge. Anthropologists are entering these spaces to critique and to intervene. They question the assumptions supporting energy market construction and bring attention to non-market perspectives. They interrogate the inter- and intra-household dynamics that are created and destabilised as new flows of energy interact with existing gender, class and power relations. They examine the ethics, moralities, and values that are implicated and invoked. They are working in interdisciplinary ways, using interventionist approaches and are challenging the creation of binaries that pit automation against human control. In this panel we discuss this as a new horizon for anthropological inquiry. One that is provoked by the changing ways energy is being negotiated within homes, circulated through neighbourhoods, and getting entangled in local markets. We invite papers that critique ‘low carbon transition’, provide ethnographic accounts of energy, or offer methodological innovations for collaborative, experimental or interdisciplinary working. We are particularly interested in insights from global south contexts and its cross-cultural comparison with the ‘smart energy’ narrative in the global north. Overall, we invite broad critical engagement with issues raised by doing anthropology at the grid edge.

P037 Mining the Energy Transition: Technology, Resource Chains, and Extractive Encounters

Convenors:

    Nikkie Wiegink (Utrecht University)

    Angela Kronenburg García (UCLouvain (Belgium))

The energy transition from a fossil fuel-based system to a low-carbon future has engendered new technologies and is changing consumer patterns across the world. Less known is that the energy transition is restructuring the extractive sector due to new policies and increasing demand for metals and minerals needed in low-carbon technologies (Addison 2018). This panel explores new horizons by linking two sub-fields of anthropology: the anthropology of energy and the anthropology of mining, and invites papers to address the energy transition from the perspective of its minerals and metals. Where do the minerals come from that power the batteries from electric vehicles and make wind turbines durable? Who are the new global players in the emerging resource chains? And how can we study these global dynamics ethnographically? How do, for example, ‘energy ethics’ (Smith & High 2017) in Europe relate to ‘mining encounters’ (Pijpers & Eriksen 2019) in the global south? And what kinds of contestations do these encounters engender? We aim to build further on the discussion of ‘energopolitics’ (Boyer 2019) to illuminate and politicize the processes that tend to be obscured by the ‘good’ of the energy transition and the urgency to fight climate change. Our intention is to unravel the tensions, interconnectedness, and ambiguities of extractive encounters at different scales. We welcome submissions based on empirical work or methodological reflections that engage with the technologies, policymaking, mining realities, multi-actor encounters, resource chains and resource booms emerging at the intersections of the energy transition and the extractive industries.

P134 Energy production, environment, and human rights in the context of climate change

Convenors:

    Elisabeth Moolenaar (Regis University)

    Ana Isabel Afonso (FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa & CICS.NOVA)

    Dorle Dracklé (University of Bremen)

One of the goals of the “energy anthropology” is placing energy and the environment in cultural perspective, taking into account meaning (making), relationships, value, and agency. Using ethnography/ethnographic research on energy production can open up a dialogue on urgent matters such as environmental justice, human rights and climate change. This panel deals with struggles over energy production, debates over climate change, and the politics of natural resource extraction within broader socio-cultural contexts. Energy landscapes are sites of power and control. These sites frequently face environmental degradation, ecological disasters, and/or social disintegration or upheaval. Sites of energy production are oftentimes located in less urban areas far away from the sites where most energy is consumed, turning the former into “sacrifice zones.” Local (at times indigenous) populations are most vulnerable because they have acquired less entitlement to the natural resources, through law, economic and political systems, and/or processes of colonization. Energy production affects not only environmental quality but also human rights. Without a livable environment, human rights may become either unachievable or meaningless. Energy production intensifies challenges to populations who are unable to claim rights such as the right to self-determination, sovereignty, or mineral or traditional land rights. We welcome papers that locate environmental justice, human rights, and/or climate change within ethnographic explorations of energy production & consumption and natural resource extraction. Papers might investigate these matters for populations affected by energy production, from the perspective of the researcher, and/or as they inform each other.

P062 The political power of energy futures within and beyond Europe

Convenors:

    Charlotte Bruckermann (University of Bergen, Norway)

    Kirsten Endres (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

    Katja Müller (Halle University)

Debates about climate change have long entered political arenas through diplomacy, bureaucracy and regulations as part of worldwide environmental governance. Although global efforts to foster greener energy increasingly supplement resource extractivism, unfolding protests point to the insufficiencies of current measures. This panel asks what political legitimacies and forms of power become possible through renewables’ development and the greening of energy systems. From top-down policymaking regarding energy access to grassroots calls for climate justice, this panel interrogates the policies and politics surrounding renewable energy, and the unintended consequences and alliances in its delivery. Ethnographic investigations in this panel will combine the intertwined complexities of greening energy with abstractions of political power at various scales. Questions could include: How does political decision-making on energy sources unfold, including expanding resource extraction, extending the grid, or developing renewables? What brute materialities of wires, cables, and power plants come into play? How do historic injustices and exclusionary legacies of extraction, production and consumption affect future energy horizons? Do imperatives of greening energy create new role models in energy matters that shift the focus within and beyond Europe? When do debates about local environmental priorities and energy rights undermine or bolster global climate targets? What new forms of precarity and scarcity do large-scale infrastructural impositions by local or international powerholders entail? We welcome contributions that investigate the contradictions and contestations between the persistence of conventional energy systems and the rise of renewables within the complex operations of political power that affect our anticipated energy futures.

On proposing a paper: https://easaonline.org/conferences/easa2020/cfp

More about the Lisbon EASA conference here