Working for Oil Comparative Social Histories of Labor in the Global Oil Industry

Atabaki, Touraj, Bini, Elisabetta, Ehsani, Kaveh (Eds.). 2018. Working for Oil. Comparative Social Histories of Labor in the Global Oil Industry, Palgrave McMillan.

This volume examines the social history of oil workers and investigates how labor relations have shaped the global oil industry during the twentieth century and today. It brings together the work of scholars from a range of disciplines, approaching the social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of oil. The contributors analyze a number of key oil producing regions, including the Americas, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Europe and Africa.

About the editors: Touraj Atabaki is Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science. He also holds the chair of the Social History of the Middle East and Central Asia at the School of the Middle East Studies of the Leiden University, The Netherlands.
Elisabetta Bini is Resarch Fellow at the University of Trieste, Italy. Her current research revolves around the history of international oil politics, in particular in the ways in which oil politics shaped relations between North Africa, Western Europe, and the United States after World War Two.
Kaveh Ehsani is Assistant Porfessor of International Studies at DePaul University, USA. His fields of interest include urban geography, critical social theory, and the political economy of development projects and their social and environmental repercussions. He is a regular media commentator and analyst on Iranian politics.

 

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 (shkelly@email.arizona.edu) or Conor Harrison (cmharris@mailbox.sc.edu) by Wednesday, October 25.

New book: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi

A Moral Technology

Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi

by Leo Coleman
Cornell University Press

 

In India over the past century, electrification has meant many things: it has been a colonial gift of modern technology, a tool of national integration and political communication, and a means of gauging the country’s participation in globalization. Electric lights have marked out places of power, and massive infrastructures have been installed in hopes of realizing political promises. In A Moral Technology, the grids and wires of an urban public utility are revealed to be not only material goods but also objects of intense moral concern. Leo Coleman offers a distinctive anthropological approach to electrification in New Delhi as more than just an economic or industrial process, or a “gridding” of social and political relations. It may be understood instead as a ritual action that has formed modern urban communities and people’s sense of citizenship, and structured debates over state power and political legitimacy.

Coleman explores three historical and ethnographic case studies from the founding of New Delhi as an imperial capital city, to its reshaping as a national capital for post-independence India, up to its recent emergence as a contemporary global city. These case studies closely describe technological politics, rituals, and legal reforms at key moments of political change in India, and together they support Coleman’s argument that ritual performances, moral judgments, and technological installations combine to shape modern state power, civic life, and political community.

Introduction: Electricity Acts

Part I. Imperial Installations

1. The Machinery of Government

2. Ritual Center and Divided City

Part II. National Grids

3. The Lifeblood of the Nation

4. Broadcast Mantras

Part III. Urban Transformations

5. The Life of Property

6. A Model Colony Conclusion: The Art of a Free Society

 

 LINK:
http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100938720

New book : Energy Humanities

Energy Humanities – An Anthology

 

 

https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/energy-humanities

Energy humanities is a field of scholarship that, like medical and digital humanities before it, aims to overcome traditional boundaries between the disciplines and between academic and applied research. Responding to growing public concern about anthropogenic climate change and the unsustainability of the fuels we use to power our modern society, energy humanists highlight the essential contribution that humanistic insights and methods can make to areas of analysis once thought best left to the natural sciences.

In this groundbreaking anthology, Imre Szeman and Dominic Boyer have brought together a carefully curated selection of the best and most influential work in energy humanities. Arguing that today’s energy and environmental dilemmas are fundamentally problems of ethics, habits, imagination, values, institutions, belief, and power—all traditional areas of expertise of the humanities and humanistic social sciences—the essays and other pieces featured here demonstrate the scale and complexity of the issues the world faces. Their authors offer compelling possibilities for finding our way beyond our current energy dependencies toward a sustainable future.

Contributors include: Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lesley Battler, Ursula Biemann, Dominic Boyer, Italo Calvino, Warren Cariou, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Una Chaudhuri, Claire Colebrook, Stephen Collis, Erik M. Conway, Amy De’Ath, Adam Dickinson, Fritz Ertl, Pope Francis, Amitav Ghosh, Gökçe Günel, Gabrielle Hecht, Cymene Howe, Dale Jamieson, Julia Kasdorf, Oliver Kellhammer, Stephanie LeMenager, Barry Lord, Graeme Macdonald, Joseph Masco, John McGrath, Martin McQuillan, Timothy Mitchell, Timothy Morton, Jean-François Mouhot, Abdul Rahman Munif, Judy Natal, Reza Negarestani, Pablo Neruda, David Nye, Naomi Oreskes, Andrew Pendakis, Karen Pinkus, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Hermann Scheer, Roy Scranton, Allan Stoekl, Imre Szeman, Laura Watts, Michael Watts, Jennifer Wenzel, Sheena Wilson, Patricia Yaeger, and Marina Zurkow

 

Link to Table of Contents (pdf)