Electrifying Anthropology

Electrifying Anthropology. Exploring Electrical Practices and Infrastructures

Editor(s): Simone Abram, Brit Ross Winthereik, Thomas Yarrow

What kinds of expertise and knowledge relate to electricity, and where is the space for alternative voices? How can the new roles for electricity in social and cultural life be acknowledged? How can we speak about ‘it’ in its own right while acknowledging that electricity is not one thing?


This book re-describes electricity and its infrastructures using insights from anthropology and science and technology studies, raising fascinating questions about the contemporary world and its future. Through ethnographic studies of bulbs, bicycles, dams, power grids and much more, the contributors shed light on practices that are often overlooked, showing how electricity is enacted in multiple ways. Electrifying Anthropology moves beyond the idea of electricity as an immovable force, and instead offers a set of potential trajectories for thinking about electricity and its effects in contemporary society.

With new contributions on an emerging area of research, this timely collection will be of value to students and scholars of anthropology, science and technology studies, geography and engineering.

Table of contents

1. Current Thinking – An Introduction
Simone Abram, Durham University, UK, Brit Winthereik, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark & Tom Yarrow, Durham University, UK

2. Electricity is Not a Noun
Gretchen Bakke, McGill University, Canada

3. Widened Reason and Deepened Optimism: Electricity and Morality in Durkheim’s Anthropology and Our Own
Leo Coleman, Hunter College, USA

4. No Current: Electricity and Disconnection in Rural India
Jamie Cross, University of Edinburgh, UK

5. What the E-bike Tells Us About the Anthropology of Energy
Nathalie Ortar, CNRS, France

6. At the Edge of the Network of Power in Japan, c.1910s-1960s
Hiroki Shin, Birkbeck University London, UK

7. Can the Mekong Speak? On Hydropower, Models and Thing-Power
Casper Bruun Jensen, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

8. Electrification and the Everyday Spaces of State Power in Postcolonial Mozambique
Joshua Kirshner, University of York, UK & Marcus Power, Durham University, UK

9. Big Grid: The Computing Beast that Preceded Big Data
Canay Özden-Schilling, MIT, USA

10. Touring the Nuclear Sublime: Power Plant Tours as Tools of Government
Tristan Loloum, Lausanne University, Switzerland

11. Afterword: Electricity as Inspiration – Towards Indeterminate Interventions
Sarah Pink, RMIT University, Australia

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