We are looking for contributors to submit abstracts to be included in a book proposal on Energopolitics for the Berghahn EASA book series.
The edited volume aims to compile cases and analysis dealing with contemporary arrangements of energy infrastructures and political power. We believe that the current transformations of energy systems and policy frameworks offer promising prospects to revisit some of the classic notions of power and politics through the lens of energy infrastructures. Dominique Boyer has underlined the opportunity to rethink Foucault’s theory of power in the light of energy: “there could have been no consolidation of any regime of modern biopower without a parallel securitization of energy provision and synchronization of energy discourse. In this respect, biopower has always been plugged in” (Boyer, 2014:327). Other conceptions of modern politics would also deserve reconsideration, interrogating the entanglements between energy materialities and political power:
- State violence and governmentality
- Statecraft and political ordering
- Citizenship and collective action,
- Local governance and politics,
- Labor struggles within the energy industry,
- Regional integration and geopolitics,
- Expert knowledge and depoliticisation, etc.
As an expression of interest, you will find below a suggestion of topics that we would like to address in the book. Abstracts of max. 500 words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 30th June. Please include contact details with the abstract. In the case of acceptance, full papers will be expected by Friday 29th September.
Looking forward for your valuable contribution.
Simone Abram, Nathalie Ortar, Tristan Loloum
CITIZENSHIP, GOVERNMENTALITY AND VIOLENCE ALONG THE GRID
Editors: Simone ABRAM, Tristan LOLOUM, Nathalie ORTAR
Energy citizenships. The current transformations of energy systems have prompted new discussions among social scientists about power infrastructures as forms and supports of political expression. The evidence of climate change, the development of renewables and the governmental engagements toward an energy transition have created new spaces for resistance, participation and innovation. These emerging energy citizenships include concerns for off-grid systems, the setting up of community renewable energy projects, collective ownership and alternative funding of power infrastructures, equity and justice in energy access, climate change, policies and protests over (non-)renewables, “smart” technologies, etc. While allegedly “empowering” consumers within competitive energy markets, the liberalization of gas and electricity sectors is also dispossessing the State from important prerogatives and strengthening private energy actors. The emergence of decentralized energy and off-grid systems, as substitutes for centralized grids, is not only an engineering challenge but also an organizational one. As electric grids tend to become less “national” and less “centralized”, aren’t they generating more social differentiation? How do decentralized energy and off-grid initiatives affect local governance, political identities and regional integration?
Energy statecraft. A political anthropology of energy assumes that power infrastructures are pivots for socio-political inquiry, as they have the capacity to “create, destroy, expand or limit the contours of what we call the state” (Meehan, 2014: 2016). In Carbon Democracy, Timothy Mitchell described, for instance, how the late 19th century labor reforms depended on the coal industry and its concentration of unionized workers; how Keynesian welfarism was sustained by an oil-shaped faith in the endless growth of national economies; and how neoliberal politics arose in great part from the brutal disruption of growth caused by the oil shocks of the 1970s. In doing so, he reminds us how statecraft is dependent on systems of energy production.
Energy knowledge. Not only is energy at the core of many economic interests, geopolitical struggles and international relations, it is also central to modernist ideologies and neoliberal narratives. The evolutionist idea that “cultural development varies directly as the amount of energy per capita per year harnessed and put to work” (White, 1943: 338) is deeply rooted in western imaginaries. Electrification is still promoted (e.g. by the UN) as a prerequisite to access both modernity and global markets (Labban, 2012). Energy relies on powerful belief systems and expert knowledge. The expansion of electric grids has often been depicted as an “inevitable” movement by energy experts (Nader, 2004: 775), only limited by technical problems and economic constraints. The practice of “rendering technical” (Li, 2007) has long been essential in the techno-scientific governance of energy, but the disruption of oil shocks, nuclear accidents and climate change have eroded faith in modern expertise, while the development of renewable energies has shown that new paths of development remain possible. A political anthropology of energy must therefore “analyze the culture of energy experts, enhance knowledge about how people understand and experience energy, and document small renewable energy successes” (Clarke, 2015: 215).
Energy governmentality. Following Boyer (2014) (following Foucault 1978) , the political power behind energy systems – what he calls “energopower” – relies on a mixture of material infrastructures, institutions and discourses of truth. The work of Douglas Rogers (2014) on “social and cultural projects” accomplished under the banner of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) by the Russian oil-company Lukoil illustrates how energy providers are increasingly solicited to fulfill political missions. Energopolitics refers not only to the capacity of energy corporations to shape basic infrastructures and legal frameworks, but also their involvement in activities of knowledge production, social care and cultural sponsorship. In postcolonial contexts, modern governance of energy resources is often tangled with more direct and authoritarian forms of power. So energopower, as Raminder Kaur argues, should be qualified, from Foucauldian notions of soft power and “governmentality” to what she calls the “necropolitics” or “raw politics of energy” (Kaur, 2013).
Boyer, D. (2014) Energopower: an introduction. Anthropological Quarterly 87(2): 309-333.
Clarke, Mari H. (2015) Interrogating Power: Engaged Energy Anthropology, Reviews in Anthropology, 44:4, 202-224, DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2015.1116325
Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. London: Penguin.
Kaur, Raminder 2013 ‘Sovereignty without Hegemony, the Nuclear State and a “Secret Public Hearing” in India’, Theory, Culture and Society, May 2013, 20(3).
Labban, M. (2012) Preempting possibility: critical assessment of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010. Development and Change 43(1): 375-393.
Li, T. M. (2007) The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.
Meehan, K. (2014) Tool-power: Water infrastructure as well springs of state power. Geoforum, 57: 25-224.
Mitchell, T. (2011) Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. London: Verso Books.
Nader, L. 2004. “The Harder Path—Shifting Gears.” Anthropological Quarterly 77(4):771-791.
Rogers, Douglas. 2014. “Energopolitical Russia: corporation, state, and the rise of social and cultural projects”. Anthropological Quarterly. 87 (2): 431-452.
White, Leslie. 1943. “Energy and the Evolution of Culture.” American Anthropologist 45(3):335-356.