CFP: Making Futures: Green alternatives and STS Interventions

Workshop on “Making Futures: Green alternatives and STS Interventions”

24-25 November 2017

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

We invite abstracts for a workshop on “Making Future(s): Green alternatives and STS Interventions” which will be held at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, 24-25 November 2017. The workshop is funded by the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST).

During the workshop we want to reflect on problems of environmental degradation and its threat to livelihoods. Remedies to such problems come predominantly in the form of various techno- and market-fixes. Eco-modernist perspectives shape mainstream politics and policies with regard to environment. A good example is the Breakthrough Institute’s Ecomodernist Manifesto (Adafu-Adjaje et al., 2015). Many agendas advocate capitalist ‘acceleration’ in the name of going beyond the current system. These would develop technologies ‘which free us from biological and environmental constraints’, as well as from conventional work (Srnicek and Williams, Accelerationist Manifesto 2013 and Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, 2015).  Amidst policy frameworks promoting new infrastructure for economic growth, alternatives propose ‘green infrastructure’ in various forms (e.g. The Case for Green Infrastructure, 2013).

However, alternative visions of the future and solutions to environmental challenges have also been proposed by social movements, local communities and different other kind of social groups and groupings. For example, social movements demand environmental justice and ‘system change’.  A number of local communities and indigenous peoples, both in the global North and South, have devised lifestyles according to alternative cosmologies that try to escape capitalist notions of nature, politics and economics.  The concept of buen vivir, good life, have become something more than just a slogan inviting to join a consumerist comfort. It has taken shape as an anti-capitalist and environmentalist agenda.

STS has a potential to critically engage with the dominant visions in order to advance politics of creating our common future.  Through this workshop we aim to advance STS theoretical and methodological interventions into both reflecting on and making ‘green futures’. The main questions to engage with are:

(1) What theoretical and methodological approaches in STS have proven to be most fruitful for studying how various visions of ‘green futures’ are made and how they stabilize into social orders? We are interested in conceptualizing technologies for making ‘futures’ and ‘the predictions of future’, new agencies, as well as new socio-technical orders, their scales and temporalities.

(2) How can we advance the current STS approaches to studying the making of the future(s)?  How to analyse the various socio-political constructs of the ‘uncertain’ and ‘green’ futures that dominate the discussion about creating what comes after the present?

(3) What concepts of nature, technology and society underlie these visions?

(4) How do various remedies for the environmental crisis engage with the neoliberal order of contemporary capitalism, either by strengthening or subverting it? In other words, we are also interested in the politics of making diverse future(s).

The organizing team comprises of local and international scholars actively shaping the field of STS: Aleksandra Lis (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), Małgorzata Kowalska (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), Piotr Matczak (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland), Agata Stasik (Koźmiński University, Warsaw, Poland) Les Levidow (Open University, UK), Luigi Pellizzoni (University of Pisa)

Invited speaker: Ingmar Lippert (IT-University of Copenhagen)

Deadline for abstracts: May 15th, 2017

300 words, proposing theoretical, empirical and methodological interventions.

Abstracts should be submitted by e-mail to ALL THREE email addresses: Aleksandra Lis, Agata K. Stasik  and Małgorzata Kowalska

Successful applicants will be notified by June 30th, 2017. Full paper drafts should be submitted by November 1st, 2017. A post-workshop publication of the papers is planned.

All paper-giving participants will be hosted at a university housing facility for up to two nights. A limited number of travel bursaries is available upon request.

Call for papers for a special issue on the uptake and diffusion of solar power in Africa (in Energy Research & Social Science)

By Maris783 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Edited by Robert Byrne, Ulrich Hansen, James Haselip, Ivan Nygaard and David Ockwell

Interested authors should submit an abstract no longer than 350 words to guest editors David Ockwell ( and James Haselip ( with the subject “ERSS Africa Solar Abstract” by April 1, 2017.

The very first special issue (SI) published in ERSS was on “Renewable Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Contributions from the Social Sciences” (Vol. 5), covering a range of energy issues and technologies, setting out the broad agenda for social scientists conducting research on renewable energy in Africa (Hancock, 2015). However, the pace and scale at which solar PV technology, in particular, is being diffused across the African continent justifies its own special issue, to explore the dimensions and driving forces of this particular socio-technical transition (the original SI had only one paper focussed on solar PV). In this call for papers, we propose going beyond the previous SI by adopting a perspective explicitly focussed on the neglected socio-cultural and political dimensions of the sustainable energy access problématique – elements the original SI touched on but did not explicitly develop.

Across Africa, market forces are working to complement or replace the role of state and donor agencies in supporting what has previously been considered a ‘niche’ technology – solar PV (Bazilian et al., 2013; Ockwell and Byrne, 2016; Rolffs, Ockwell and Byrne, 2015). This investment is occurring at multiple scales, from the sale of small-scale pico solar products and solar home systems, to mini-grids and large scale multi-megawatt on-grid PV installations (Hansen et al., 2015). However, these trends are manifesting unevenly across political and economic boundaries.

While numerous authors point to the central importance of understanding the political and socio-cultural dimensions to the technological transition taking place across developing countries – albeit in an uneven manner – few authors have explored these aspects in depth, so as to shed light on their determinative force. Indeed, the wider topic of sustainable energy has been predominantly analysed from the perspectives of technological change/innovations and economic feasibility studies, within a field that is still dominated by the disciplines of economics and engineering. This two-dimensional “technology-finance” perspective has resulted in a “scholarly deficit” (Ockwell and Byrne 2016) in research on solar PV, and energy access in developing countries more broadly – this despite the increasingly high profile international policy attention being afforded to the sustainable energy access agenda (e.g. the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 initiative and the specific Sustainable Development Goal, SDG7, on sustainable energy access). Equally, it is useful to reflect on the relationship between cultural, political and social transitions themselves, and how these in turn shape, steer and drive market forces and the transition to solar PV technology.

While some recent work in the field of sustainable energy access has witnessed the beginnings of a “socio-cultural turn” (Ockwell and Byrne 2016) – with a small number of contributions (including a handful from the previous ERSS SI on energy access) that operationalize theoretical insights from social anthropology (Winther, 2008; Campbell et al., 2016; Campbell and Sallis, 2013), socio-technical transitions (Ahlborg and Sjöstedt, 2015; Rolffs et al., 2015; Sovacool et al., 2011; Ulsrud et al., 2015; Ulsrud et al., 2011; Hansen and Nygaard, 2014; Nygaard and Hansen, 2016) and common pool resource management perspectives (Gollwitzer et al., 2016) – work on the political aspects of this field is almost non-existent, save from a handful of contributions that deal with energy and climate change more broadly (see, e.g., Shen and Power, 2016; Tyfield et al., 2015; Ahlborg et al., 2015; Newell and Phillips, 2016; Baker et al., 2014; Baker, 2015).

A gap thus exists in understanding the political and socio-cultural dimensions to this rapidly unfolding transition. Detailed analyses can provide insights into the importance and implications of these neglected dimensions in the process of creating or facilitating markets for small scale PV, in adopting certain policy instruments, in initiating, designing, negotiating and constructing large scale PV projects and, critically, in seeking to understand the extent to which poor and marginalised women and men will gain or lose from these different pathways (Leach et al., 2010) to electrification.

As such, we are interested in exploring some of the fundamental development implications of new markets and technology diffusion, e.g. capacity strengthening and the industrial spill-over effects of the transition of solar PV. Such analysis is also important as the transition to sustainable energy access is highly uneven across different continents. Further, it varies sharply within these countries, across urban and rural contexts, and between high and low-income communities (Bridge et al., 2013; Mitchell, 2007). For this special issue, we solicit full-length research articles that are conceptually-led and empirically-grounded, analysing their topics through a range of theoretical fields including sustainability transitions, critical policy studies, political economy perspectives, sociology and anthropology, amongst others. We welcome submissions from researchers whose work:

• Goes beyond an appreciation of the ‘classical’ determinants of technological change as understood in the innovations literature (techno-economic thinking), to explore the more complex and subtle mechanisms of change that are inherently political, socio-cultural and geographical.

• Aims to understand the driving forces, business models, and implications of the emergence of market-led investment in solar power, away from a mainly state and donor-driven model of niche development in African countries.

• Is both academic and of practical value; contributing to an emerging critical literature aimed at challenging the silo treatment of access to sustainable energy as an issue that concerns purely finance and engineering, by reflecting on real-world experience.

• Is able to inform policy makers, energy planning agencies and investors on lessons learned, sharing experiences from similar yet different contexts, central to the UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative.

Interested authors should submit an abstract no longer than 350 words to guest editors David Ockwell ( and James Haselip ( with the subject “ERSS Africa Solar Abstract” by April 1, 2017.

In the abstract, please include contact information and institutional affiliation. Based on submitted abstracts, the guest editors of this special issue will invite manuscripts for full consideration. Completed draft manuscript drafts of 4000-9000 words are expected by August 1, 2017, after which they will be double-blind peer-reviewed for a final publication decision. The final acceptance deadline is March 1 2018 and the special issue will be published in Volume 39 of the journal, printed in May 2018


Ahlborg, H., Boräng, F., Jagers, S. C., & Söderholm, P. (2015). Provision of electricity to African households: The importance of democracy and institutional quality. Energy Policy, 87, 125-135.

Ahlborg, H., & Sjöstedt, M. (2015). Small-scale hydropower in Africa: Socio-technical designs for renewable energy in Tanzanian villages. Energy Research & Social Science, 5, 20-33.

Baker, L., Newell, P., & Phillips, J. (2014). The political economy of energy transitions: The case of South Africa. New Political Economy, 19(6), 791-818.

Baker L. (2015) The evolving role of finance in South Africa’s renewable energy sector. Geoforum 64: 146-156

Bazilian, M., Onyeji, I., Liebreich, M., MacGill, I., Chase, J., Shah, J., … & Zhengrong, S. (2013). Re-considering the economics of photovoltaic power.Renewable Energy, 53, 329-338.

Bridge, G., Bouzarovski, S., Bradshaw, M. and Eyre, N. (2013) Geographies of energy transition: Space, place and the low-carbon economy. Energy Policy, Vol. 53 (pp. 331–340)

Campbell, B., Cloke, J., & Brown, E. (2016). Communities of energy. Economic Anthropology, 3(1), 133-144.

Campbell, B., & Sallis, P. (2013). Low-carbon yak cheese: transition to biogas in a Himalayan socio-technical niche. Interface focus, 3(1), 20120052.

Gollwitzer, L., Ockwell, D., & Ely, A. (2016). Institutional Innovation in the Management of Pro-Poor Energy Access in East Africa. SPRU Working Paper Series (ISSN 2057-6668). Brighton: SPRU, University of Sussex.

Hancock, K, J. (2015) The expanding horizon of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa: Leading research in the social sciences. Energy Research and Social Science. Vol. 5, pp. 1–8

Hansen, U. E., & Nygaard, I. (2014). Sustainable energy transitions in emerging economies: The formation of a palm oil biomass waste-to-energy niche in Malaysia 1990–2011. Energy Policy, 66, 666-676.

Hansen, U.E., Pedersen, M.B., Nygaard, I., (2015). Review of Solar PV market development in East Africa. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 46, 236–248

Leach M, Scoones I and Stirling A. (2010) Dynamic Sustainabilities: Technology, Environment, Social Justice, Abingdon: Routledge.

Mitchell, C. (2007) The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy. Palgrave Macmillan, UK

Newell, P., & Phillips, J. (2016). Neoliberal energy transitions in the South: Kenyan experiences. Geoforum, 74, 39-48.

Nygaard, I., & Hansen, U. E. (2016). Niche development and upgrading in the PV value chain. In Eu-spri Conference Lund 2016.

Ockwell, D., & Byrne, R. (2016). Sustainable Energy for All: Innovation, technology and pro-poor green transformations. Routledge.

Ondraczek, J. (2013). The sun rises in the east (of Africa): A comparison of the development and status of solar energy markets in Kenya and Tanzania.Energy Policy, 56, 407-417.

Power, M., Newell, P., Baker, L., Bulkeley, H., Kirshner, J., Smith, A. (2016) The political economy of energy transitions in Mozambique and South Africa: The role of the Rising Powers. Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 17, pp. 10-19

Rolffs, P., Ockwell, D., & Byrne, R. (2015). Beyond technology and finance: pay-as-you-go sustainable energy access and theories of social change.Environment and Planning A, 47(12), 2609-2627.

Shen, W., & Power, M. (2016). Africa and the export of China’s clean energy revolution. Third World Quarterly, 1-20.

Sovacool, B. K., D’Agostino, A. L., & Bambawale, M. J. (2011). The socio-technical barriers to Solar Home Systems (SHS) in Papua New Guinea: “Choosing pigs, prostitutes, and poker chips over panels”. Energy Policy, 39(3), 1532-1542.

Tyfield, D., Ely, A., & Geall, S. (2015). Low carbon innovation in China: from overlooked opportunities and challenges to transitions in power relations and practices. Sustainable Development, 23(4), 206-216.

Ulsrud, K., Winther, T., Palit, D., & Rohracher, H. (2015). Village-level solar power in Africa: accelerating access to electricity services through a socio-technical design in Kenya. Energy Research & Social Science, 5, 34-44.

Ulsrud, K., Winther, T., Palit, D., Rohracher, H., & Sandgren, J. (2011). The solar transitions research on solar mini-grids in India: Learning from local cases of innovative socio-technical systems. Energy for Sustainable Development, 15(3), 293-303.

Winther, T. (2008). The impact of electricity: Development, desires and dilemmas. Berghahn Books.


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