CFP: Energy, Culture and Society in the Global South

May 31-June 1, 2019, University of Cambridge

This two-day international conference will bring together doctoral students and early-career scholars to discuss the different ways energy is and has been intertwined with economic, social, cultural and political developments and processes. The aim of the conference is to centre attention on energy as a key agent in modern and contemporary history, in contrast to its typical designation as an external subject of research exclusive to the Natural Sciences.

At a moment of global climate crisis, it is necessary to critically analyse energy systems and their entanglement in social, economic and political realities. This discussion will develop crucial understanding of the use of alternative and renewable forms of energy.

The conference aims to address the significance of historically uneven development in determining the different ways energy is used and conceptualised around the world. As the negotiations of the 2016 Paris climate accord highlighted, plans for energy transition must also engage with calls for energy justice. Therefore, this conference will focus on cultures of energy in the Global South, drawing attention to particular connections between energy, colonialism and the post-colonial state.

We aim to address an array of different forms of energy – carbon, geo-thermal, nuclear or electrical – and various energy sources such as oil, gas, coal, wood, wind, and water. The nature of world energy not only means that comparative analysis between different national contexts will be important, but also that papers at the conference will follow the transnational and global flows of the infrastructures, knowledge and people that form part of the construction of energy systems and assemblages.

The conference advocates for multi-disciplinary, contrasting methodologies, and cross-regional submissions, in order to stimulate alternative ways of thinking about energy. Submission from all regions of the Global South such as Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and Asia are welcomed, as well as comparisons with their Northern counterparts.

Sub-themes may include:

§  The uses and effects of energy in everyday life at the point of consumption, especially its relationship to habits and rhythms of daily life, questions of power, agency, and resistance, as well as categories of identity such as race, gender, class and sect.

§  Knowledge, representations and cultural imaginaries of energy, including alternative meanings, ontologies and cosmologies, as well as knowledge controversies.

§  The construction and reproduction of energy systems and the role of both human and non-human actors such as workers, engineers, technocrats, infrastructural technologies and raw materials.

§  The relationship between energy, politics and governance at local, national and international levels.

§  The place of energy in colonial and post-colonial states and its connection to themes of sovereignty, rights, law, development, capitalism, imperialism and the nation-state.

Keynote speaker:
Dr Charlotte Lemanski
Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Charlotte Lemanski is an Urban Geographer interested in the everyday and structural realities and constraints of inequality within the Southern city, focusing specifically on inequalities related to housing and infrastructure, as well as urban governance and citizenship. She is committed to the Global South as a valid site of knowledge production, and her primary empirical focus is contemporary South Africa, with a secondary interest in India. She leads the British Academy funded inter-disciplinary research project on Energy innovation for low-income housing in India and South Africa and is also a founding member of the Cambridge inter-disciplinary research group Global Energy Nexus in Urban Settlements (GENUS). Her most recent edited collection, Citizenship and Infrastructure: Practices and Identities of Citizens and the State, is to be published by Routledge in April 2019.

Damilola Adebayo (University of Cambridge, History)
Mattin Biglari (SOAS, History)
Rihab Khalid (University of Cambridge, Architecture)
Aditya Ramesh (SOAS, History)
Noura Wahby (University of Cambridge, Development Studies)

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge
Faculty of History, University of Cambridge
Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)

Call for papers

Participation information

If you would like to propose a paper for our conference, please submit a completed application form by 11 February 2019. There will be six panels, each focused on a particular theme and each consisting of speakers and discussants. We will also have a keynote address as well as a plenary session at the end. More information on the structure of the conference would be supplied to confirmed participants. Travel and accommodation expenses for speakers will be paid for by the conference sponsors. Please do not hesitate to contact the session conveners if you require further information,

More information about the conference can be found here.

Deadline: February 11, 2019

Posted: January 25, 2019