CFP ERQ 2020: Ethnographies of energy production in times of transition

8th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference

University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy

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, and by January 10th 2020. For more detailed info on submission check this link:

Panel Description

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.

Open questions:

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 plants)?

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 socio-economic conjuncture?

7. Which territories are currently emerging in the global energy production geography? Which are declining?

8. To what extent large-scale renewable energy production schemes are bound to be a new form of exploitation?


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 A, 48(3):540–557.

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 University Press.

Cfp: EASA 2020 conference

16th EASA Biennial Conference
New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe
21-24 July 2020 in Lisbon
ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon and ICS-Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon

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.

Energy transition: Does the mountain give birth to a mouse?

5th Energy and Society Conference

Pre-Call for Workshops

Theme: “Energy transition: Does the mountain give birth to a mouse?”

8-10 September 2020, University of Trento, Italy

The fifth Energy and Society Conference and midterm conference of the European Sociological Association Research Network 12 Environment and Society will take place in Trento, Italy, from 8th to 10th September 2020.  We aim to bring together researchers interested in the social dimensions of energy, to exchange insightful ideas and create opportunities for collaboration. We invite contributions from across the social sciences and interdisciplinary research teams working on energy and society issues. The conference is organized in cooperation with ESA RN 12, ISA RN 24, and the Urban Europe Research Alliance (UERA).

With this pre-call we would like to invite proposals for workshops that will then be announced in the call for papers to be issued after the ESA conference 2019 in Manchester.

Workshops are meant to discuss a specific issue reflecting the conference theme, or the contribution of social analysis to energy research and policy. The discussion should be based on short inputs, and actively involve participants. Interactive formats are highly encouraged.

The usual call for abstracts as well as for contributions to the chosen workshops will be published in October 2019.

In your submission, please indicate the topic of the proposed workshop as well as the planned format of the workshop. Please indicate if you call for contributions from conference participants via abstracts (mentioning possible topics and formats). We will include this then in the cfp.

 Please send your proposals for workshops until the 15th of September to: energysociety[add] (Pia Laborgne)

We are looking forward to many interesting contributions and fruitful exchange.

Contact for further questions:

Responsible for local organization: Natalia Magnani (University of Trento) natalia.magnani[add]

If attending the ESA, you are invited to approach us there with your workshop ideas and questions (e.g. at the business meeting of RN 12).

Les nouveaux territoires de l’énergie

Le secteur de l’énergie connaît depuis le début du XXè siècle de profonds bouleversements. Dans un contexte d’après pétrole et de méfiance vis-à-vis du nucléaire le basculement vers un nouveau mix énergétique fondé sur le développement des énergies renouvelables vient remettre en question bien des certitudes sociales, économiques ou industrielles. Au cœur de la transition écologique, la production d’énergie sort progressivement des grands lieux de production, centrales nucléaires ou barrages hydroélectriques pour venir bousculer les pratiques et les représentations sur des territoires jusque-là peu concernés. Forêt et bois énergie, installation collective de biomasse, ferme solaire, utilisation de l’eau ou du vent par l’implantation d’éoliennes toujours plus hautes… Le développement des énergies renouvelables fait entrer la question énergétique dans le quotidien et l’agenda des territoires provoquant des débats, des conflits, mais aussi des expériences plus consensuelles.

 Le présent appel à article vise à étudier les effets territoriaux des mutations en cours, à la fois en termes de production et de consommation. Si les questions des conflits d’usages en lien avec le déploiement des grandes installations d’ER ont donné lieu à la production d’une importante littérature, d’autres nous paraissent mériter attention. Elles constituent le cœur de cet appel. La première concerne l’étude des conséquences de l’évolution des formes d’organisation du système de production énergétique de plus en plus localisés. La seconde, les bouleversements des pratiques. La troisième porte sur les configurations d’acteurs liés à cette décentralisation.

Évolutions du système de production de l’énergie 

Le déploiement local de la production énergétique vient tout d’abord interroger la solidarité énergétique, que ce soit entre les citoyens ou entre des territoires historiquement inscrits dans des systèmes maillés symboles d’unité nationale. La multiplication des lieux de production et les premières tentatives d’autoconsommation sont une remise en cause profonde des systèmes énergétiques nationaux intégrés. À l’inverse, le développement de système autonome visant à une production et une consommation localisées peut être une chance pour des états émergents n’ayant plus à construire de grand réseau de distribution d’énergie.

La production d’énergie devient aujourd’hui aussi une question économique centrale pour certains territoires. Des espaces ruraux aux grandes centrales solaires dans les déserts de la planète, la plupart des projets s’inscrivent dans le cadre du déploiement d’une « économie verte » porteuse potentiellement de développement local : innovations (technique, institutionnelle, sociale, etc.), la création d’emplois ou la création de revenus sous forme de taxes ou de rentes foncières … Aussi la recherche d’un nouveau mix énergétique rebat les cartes des acteurs historiques et des cultures métiers. Il s’agit d’analyser les effets des évolutions technologiques et de l’arrivée de nombreux nouveaux acteurs qui s’invitent aujourd’hui dans le tête-à-tête historique entre les grands énergéticiens et les États. Les mutations amorcées dans un contexte de libéralisation de la production ont contribué à la naissance de nouveaux acteurs dans le champ de l’énergie. Acteurs économiques (groupes financiers, fonds de pension), acteurs industriels concurrents directs des producteurs historiques, acteurs technologiques à l’image de jeunes start-up ou de laboratoires de recherche reconnus, mais aussi acteurs territoriaux à l’image des collectivités locales voire des propriétaires fonciers aujourd’hui directement intéressés par la question énergétique.

Comment s’organise(nt) aujourd’hui le(s) système(s) de production énergétique(s) et selon quelle géographie ? Avec quel lien au territoire d’implantation ? L’énergie verte est-elle porteuse de développement ? Si oui dans quelle mesure ?

Évolutions des pratiques

Face aux bouleversements qui ont débuté, l’énergie est devenue une question sociale centrale. Compte tenu de son renchérissement et des contraintes techniques liées au développement de nouvelles technologies, comportements et représentations ont commencé à évoluer.

  • D’un point de vue technologique les modèles de smart city ou smart grid promettent aux consommateurs un habitat interconnecté permettant de développer des comportements collectifs certes vertueux, mais individuellement contraignants. La littérature sur la ville durable et les éco-quartier a commencé à documenter cette question, qui pourtant ne saurait concerner seulement certains territoires démonstrateurs (Espaces et sociétés 2011/4, n° 147, Quelle ville durable?).
  • Le développement des formes de précarité énergétique face au renchérissement des coûts a également fait l’objet d’enquêtes. Comment cela se traduit-il à l‘échelle territoriale. Que ce soit en termes de stratégies d’adaptation des comportements, de mesure de ces nouveaux risques sanitaires et sociaux. Assiste-t-on au déploiement de nouvelles politiques publiques afin d’en atténuer les effets ? Si oui à quelle échelle et avec quel impact sur le territoire ?
  • Les élus, les acteurs socio-économiques, les citoyens consommateurs ont-ils pris la mesure de l’ampleur des bouleversements en cours ? Les acteurs faiseurs sont-ils en capacité de comprendre et interpréter les évolutions rapides du système énergétique ?

Collectivités publiques et évolutions des cadres institutionnels  

La transition énergétique offre également un terrain fertile à des approches multiniveaux. Grandes arènes internationales de type COP, multiplication des initiatives et des annonces européennes ou nationales, développement de nouvelles filières et des installations sur les territoires, inventions de modes de régulations national/local au grès des évolutions technologiques. Il s’agit d’interroger la montée en puissance de politiques locales et l’effacement progressif tant des politiques nationales que des grands producteurs historiques dans ce nouveau modèle.

Dans ce contexte un zoom sur les collectivités locales se justifie doublement. Spatialement, ces nouvelles configurations des acteurs de l’énergie sont le plus souvent localisées et entrent en confrontation avec les modes traditionnels d’occupation de l’espace. Politiquement, parce que dans la plupart des pays les évolutions législatives et réglementaires se sont emparées de ces nouveaux enjeux pour les inscrire dans leurs politiques d’aménagement et de développement local. Dans bien des États les lois les plus récentes ont progressivement obligé les collectivités à s’accaparer cette question de l’énergie. C’est bien ce que montre l’exemple français. Que ce soit à l’échelle de l’urbanisme opérationnel (chauffages urbains, bâtiments basse consommation), à des documents de planification (desserte urbaine et bilan carbone des Plans locaux d’urbanisme, Schémas de cohérence territoriale, Grenelles, réglementation des nouveaux usages) ou celle de la planification stratégique (SRADDET régional, PCET départementaux…) les collectivités sont depuis peu devenues à leur tour des acteurs majeurs de l’énergie.

L’objectif de ce dossier est de nourrir les débats sur les effets de la décentralisation de l’énergie sur les territoires induite par le développement des ER, et réciproquement la manière dont les acteurs de ce dernier s’en saisissent et la mettent en œuvre à leur échelle. Sont bienvenus les articles proposant des analyses de cas en Europe et dans le monde. Des articles portant sur les questions de conflits d’usages liés aux grandes installations d’ER pourront être pris en compte, à condition qu’ils en proposent une relecture au regard du présent appel.

Coordination du dossier

Jérôme Dubois, Leïla Kebir


Envoi des articles au plus tard le 15 septembre 2019

Adresse pour la correspondance exclusivement en version électronique par courriel à :

Les auteurs qui s’interrogent sur la pertinence de leur proposition peuvent contacter les coordinateurs


La revue ne demande pas de propositions d’articles, mais directement les articles.

Les articles ne dépassent pas 42 000 signes (espaces compris) en incluant: texte, notes, références bibliographiques, annexes, mais hors résumés.

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au sens large et s’il respecte les normes de publication; en cas d’acceptation, ces articles sont publiés rapidement.

Les marchés de l’électricité

For those understanding French 4 radio programs about electricity markets on France Culture.

Les marchés de l’électricité (1/4) : Une libéralisation sous tensionEntendez-vous l’éco ?LE 10/06/2019

La libéralisation dans le secteur de l’électricité à partir des années 80 a bouleversé l’organisation de marché de l’électricité. Comment faire cohabiter…

Les marchés de l’électricité (2/4) : Une histoire électrique Entendez-vous l’éco ?LE 11/06/2019

Présent dans la nature, l’électricité est arrivée réellement dans la vie des Hommes à la fin du XIXe siècle. Auréolée d’un caractère magique, la fée électricité…

Les marchés de l’électricité (3/4) : La voiture électrique : une mythologie contemporaineEntendez-vous l’éco ?LE 12/06/2019

Les marchés de l’électricité (4/4) : Les scénarios de la transition Entendez-vous l’éco ?LE 13/06/2019

A l’heure où se multiplient les scénarios affirmant la faisabilité d’une transition vers une électricité 100% renouvelable, et apportant de plus en plus…

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.


Cfp: The living in the socioecological transition from social controversies to research practices

The living in the socioecological transition from social controversies to research practices
Contributions of Environmental social sciences
Rennes, France, 20-22 june 2018

“The time of the ecological transition” has come, and the expression has already been adopted in the fields of energy and economic policies. In addition to many existing academic works on these subjects, we must acknowledge the growing share of jobs associated with eco-activities (CGDD, 20161) and the management of this ecological transition by public policies and through legislation (e.g. the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act adopted on august 2015 by the French Council for Ecological Transition).
The approach of these transitional dynamics should not be limited to the energy, resource and economic themes. The social and environmental changes that they imply are transverse phenomena that require the mobilization of a variety of methodological tools in order to grasp all their components, be they normative, symbolic or cognitive, in all their dimensions in particular collective and individual. It is therefore all the social sciences of the environment that must contribute to question this transition which presents itself as “the opportunity to relaunch the search for a new articulation between nature and culture and to explore the multiple social phenomena that predict, in a disordered and contradictory way, the future of society ” (Audet, 2015 : 112).
There are different ways to address this transition, the most frequent of which remains focused on the energy theme. This symposium proposes to shift this view in order to question the transformations of the nonhuman living from three angles: the new ways of categorizing the living and the practices associated with them; the transformations of the public space through the publicization of these new categorizations and practices; and our methods to grasp the living in the ecological transition. More generally, the aim of this symposium is to contribute to the analysis of the dynamics of contemporary social transformations of the living by extending the work on social and ecological change developed by social sciences research teams such as the Spaces and Societies team (UMR ESO CNRS) which brings this project.

Three areas of reflection will be specifically addressed:

1. New categorizations of the living and associated practices at the time of the socioecological transition and, more broadly, the evolution of relationships with the living through, for example, the controversy about livestock or the assignment of rights or values to animals, plants or natural entities, such as the status of Invasive Alien Species or the greening of cities;
2. The transformations of the public space related to the role given to the living in the socioecological transition: the way in which these questions are inscribed, shaped, debated and how they recompose the public and private spheres through emotions and collective mobilizations, for instance;
3. The impact of works about the living and public space on research practices, on the analysis of social and environmental change, and on the roles of researchers in society.

1. Transformations of living things
The objective of this axis is to question the socioecological transition in terms of a transformation of the relation to the living. Until the 1960s, this relationship to the living in our occidental and industrialised society was essentially thought in relation with productive activities where the living was known through the wild / domestic dichotomy. Today, this reading grid has gradually faded (Micoud, 20103): controversies over farm animals, hunting practices, the reintroduction of protected species, the multiplication of super-predators, genetic manipulations, made this categorization of the living animal and plant becoming fuzzy and object of social tensions. In addition, we can see through the notions of “critical zones”, the Gaia hypothesis (Latour, 20164) or reflections about the anthropocene, a change in the very conception of our understanding of the living and our interdependencies with it. This axis will allow questioning the new forms of categorization of the living and their related practices, to interrogate the features and the meanings of the status evolution of the living, but also the tensioning of these new categorizations between different social groups. For this purpose, the expected contributions will address :
– Environmental measures (management plan, restoration or control programs, etc.) through which status and roles are assigned to animals and plants referring to new forms of categorization of the living,
– Knowledge mobilized through these new categorizations and how they coexist with other categorizations, between hybridization, appropriation and resistance – how to think the diversity of relationships to the living while the globalization of environmental issues now confronts multiple ways of conceiving this relationship?
– The role of moral or sensitive commitments particularly carried out by activists and mobilized in the recognition of new categorization registers.

2. Transformations of public space
The aim of this axis is to think about the link between the living and the public space in the ecological transition. Studies such as those carried out in the 1990s by P. Lascoumes or M. Janicke5 showed the process by which environmental issues were originated changes in the public policy decision-making process, toward a broader territorialized decision building new interdependencies between actors and territories. At the same time, civil society acquired a legitimacy to make demands in public space, particularly through collective mobilizations, which became an accepted form of expression of citizenship, referring to debates around the emergence of a new democratic model (Bacqué and Sintomer, 20116).
In this perspective, the expected communications will show the contribution of the nonhuman living to this transformation of the public space by focusing on the publicization processes of the stakes related to this nonhuman living. In particular, they will examine the processes by which environmental claims or sensitivities shift from the private sphere to the public sphere and vice versa. We thus expect contributions questioning:
– The gradual process of international, European or national adjustments between the circulation of injunctions and models of action on the living from public actors, and their appropriation by civil society, sometimes with forms of resistance,
– The role of emotions, sensitivities or specific tools, such as digital technologies, in collective mobilizations and, more particularly, their role in the collective construction of claims or public action concerning the living things,
– The material transformations of the public space by the arrival of the non-human living through the vegetalization or the animalization of the city, from the point of view of collective, militant or public actions, as well as those of the inhabitants.

3. Transformation of research practices
The objective of this axis is to qualify and question the effects of these previous developments on the dynamics of research in the social sciences and especially in sociology. The environmental theme and the emergence of new fields such as transitions or environmental humanities, which question the living, overturn the instituted disciplinary categories and the internal logics of the disciplines: it questions both the institutional, cognitive and methodological dynamics of the construction and the legitimization of knowledge.
We will discuss socioecological changes, in their relation to the living, within this process of renewal of scientific practices. This concerns the activity of researchers, increasingly subject to interdisciplinary and citizen science imperatives, but also their interactions with the actors of the social and environmental changes they are studying. It also concerns the formalization and interlinking of their results with the knowledge produced by others, individuals or organizations, both in the context of global knowledge sharing and in the multiplication of local initiatives.
We propose to examine the evolution of research practices within the following themes:
– The contribution of research streams studying the living, such as environmental humanities or transitions studies and their effects on research dynamics, in particular concerning the new hierarchies of disciplines, the research axes in the environmental social sciences and especially the methodologies derived therefrom,
– The transformations of research practices on the living caused by the growing importance of certain unifying themes in the social sciences of the environment, mainly interdisciplinarity, complexity, uncertainty or innovation,
– The new postures of researchers, both in terms of acculturation to the diversity and complexity of the issues they are studying, as well as their involvement in research objects, for example in a logic of “involved” research (Jollivet, 20157),
– The evolution of research process on the living in relation to social and ecological transition, the generalization of participatory approaches and the dynamics of citizen science.

Symposium organization:
– Proposals for oral presentation or poster sessions should be submitted by December 15, 2017, with a length of 8 000 to 10 000 characters. They must be sent to:
– Contributions will be in French or in English. Selected contributors could send their visual presentation (e.g. slides) two weeks before the symposium for translation in French. The presentation could be whether in French or in English.
– The symposium will take place in three local institutions: at Agrocampus Ouest and in Rennes 1 and Rennes 2 University.

Scientific comity:
– Ridha Abdmouleh, sociologist, University of Sfax, Tunisia
– Anne Atlan, ecologist, CNRS, UMR 6590, ESO-Rennes, France
– René Audet, sociologist, UQAM, Canada
– Rémi Barbier, sociologist, ENGEES, Strasbourg, France
– Guilherme C. Borges, psychosociologist, Fondation Oswaldo Cruz, Brasil
– Philippe Boudes, sociologist, UMR ESO-Rennes, Agrocampus Ouest, France
– Antoine Doré, sociologist, INRA, UMR 1248 Agir, France
– Corinne Gendron, sociologist, UQAM, Canada
– Nathalie Hervé-Fournereau, lawyer, CNRS, UMR 6262 IODE, France
– Marie Jacqué, Sociologist, UMR 151 IRD-AMU, LPED, France
– Fabienne Joliet, Geographer, Agrocampus Ouest, UMR CNRS ESO, France
– Sylvie Ollitrault, political science, CNRS, UMR 6051-ARENE, France
– Florence Rudolf, Sociologist, INSA Strasbourg, EA AMUP, France
– Véronique Van Tilbeurgh, Sociologist, UMR 6590, ESO-Rennes 2, France

Call for abstract open till: December 15, 2017.
– Response to the proposals : February 15, 2018
– The symposium will be held in Rennes, June 20 to 22, 2018.

Website :

Ref. :
1. Commissariat général au développement durable, Service de l’observation et des statistiques, 2016, Chiffres et statistiques, n°755, 4 p.
2. Audet, R., 2015, Pour une sociologie de la transition écologique, Cahiers de recherche sociologique, 58/2015, p. 5-13.
3 Micoud, A., 2010, Sauvage ou domestique, des catégories obsolètes ?, Sociétés, 2/2010 (n° 108), p. 99-107.
4 Latour, B., 2015, Face à Gaïa. Huit conférences sur le Nouveau Régime Climatique, Paris, Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond, La Découverte
5 Lascoumes, P., 1994, L’éco-pouvoir (environnement et politiques), Paris, La Découverte, Jänicke, M., 2008, Ecological modernisation : new perspectives, Journal of Cleaner Production, n°16, p. 557-565
6 Bacqué, M.-H., Sintomer (dir.), Y., 2011, La démocratie participative. Histoires et généalogies, La Découverte, coll. « Recherches ».
7 Jollivet, M., 2015, Pour une transition écologique citoyenne, Paris, ed. Ch. L. Mayer

AAG 2018 Call for Papers: Renewing accumulation: Strategies and geographies of energy transition

AAG Annual Meeting: NEW ORLEANS 2018, April 10-14, 2018

Session organizers: Ingrid Behrsin (UC Davis), Conor Harrison (University of South Carolina), Sarah Kelly-Richards (University of Arizona), Sarah Knuth (Durham University), James McCarthy (Clark University)


Recent work in economic geography and political ecology has analyzed energy transitions as fundamentally geographical processes, ones with the power to transform the capitalist space economy in myriad ways (Bridge et al. 2013). Critical energy geographers have begun to explore how the rapid uptake of solar, wind, hydropower, and other renewable and ‘clean’ energy technologies in recent years is introducing new competition for land and resources and raising a host of environmental and social concerns across a variety of spaces, from rural lands and Indigenous territories to dense urban areas (Bridge et al., 2013; Calvert, 2015; Kelly-Richards et al., 2017; McCarthy, 2015; Huber and McCarthy, 2017). Energy geographers are likewise investigating energy efficiency as another accumulation frontier within today’s energy transition, as established conservation programs intersect with new schemes for making energy efficiency a valuable ‘resource’ within urban real estate markets (Knuth 2016), regional energy portfolios (Thoyre 2015), and smart metering initiatives (Levenda et al. 2015). Energy geographers studying the new accumulation sites and strategies above are increasingly attempting to situate them within broader trajectories of capitalist environmental-economic crisis and resolution, as energy transitions take center stage within the green economy’s imaginary of technological ‘disruption’ and renewal (Knuth 2017) and its promise of socioecological fixes to crisis tendencies (McCarthy 2015).

Electric utilities are key actors in these dynamics, sometimes embracing and sometimes resisting transitions to renewable energy sources. The industry is undergoing a period of tremendous technological change and turmoil across many national and regional contexts. In the face of the falling price of renewable energy, energy efficiency initiatives, and a variety of ‘smart’ technologies, tech firms, energy entrepreneurs and investors, and some policy makers view the industry as ripe for disruption and are deploying new accumulation strategies. With new accumulation strategies come new actors, dynamics, and uncertainties in renewable energy development, as market-based de- and reregulation continues to transform established electric utility regimes and large-scale electric grids. At the same time, these would-be ‘disruptors’ confront obdurate socio-technical systems and entrenched political interests. Many incumbent utilities are attempting to use their amassed political economic strength to withstand changes to accumulation strategies that have changed little since the early 20th century, and are thus investing heavily in centralized natural gas and nuclear generation while undermining distributed energy initiatives at every turn. Meanwhile, the expansion of electric grids is becoming a point of conflict in energy transitions in many developing contexts, as managers struggle to grow centralized transmission and distribution grids capable of handling variable renewable energy generation sources, while new competitors market distributed infrastructural and accumulation alternatives.

In the two paper sessions and associated panel session described below, we seek to explore the ways in which these transformations are unfolding, and being contested, across diverse-but-interconnected geographical and sectoral contexts, ones that present multiple sites for critical analysis and intervention. Our intent is to assemble one paper session focused on the political ecology of renewable energy projects and transitions broadly understood; a second paper session focused on the electric utility industry in the context of those transitions; and a panel session that will integrate the themes of both. We invite papers that build on recent work in economic geography/geographical political economy and political ecology in order to examine the strategies present in the renewable energy and electricity industries to ‘renew’ accumulation, and correspondingly, how these strategies articulate and conflict with existing land uses , territorial logics, and utility industry structures. Potential topics of interest may include:

  • The politics of renewable and ‘clean’ energy planning and deployments:  e.g., what are the techniques and justifications used to plan and legitimate such projects?
  • Displacements and dispossessions associated with planned or enacted renewable energy projects.
  • Flows of investments into the renewable energy sector and specific territories and/or projects.
  • The increasing role of tech firms in the electricity industry.
  • Competing tech paradigms, accumulation strategies, and visions for long-term accumulation.
  • Regulation, deregulation, re-regulation, and the changing structure of utility industries regionally, nationally, and transnationally.
  • Increases in renewable energy generation and land use implications.
  • Utility strategies to resist distributed energy projects in the Global North and South.
  • Material and technological politics (e.g., interactions between renewable energy growth and grid innovations, new proposals for energy efficiency and storage).
  • Conflicts and environmental governance implications of the transition to renewable energy.
  • Contradictions in the private-sector-led development of renewable energy.


Please email abstracts of 250 words or less to Sarah Kelly-Richards ( or Conor Harrison ( by Wednesday, October 25.

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