Concerns about rethinking consumerist technological habits and assumptions in the high-energy usage parts of the globe have collided with recognition of the failure to offer even a modicum of energy access in off-grid parts. This poses big questions for re-imagining social relationships with energy.
Since the mid 2000s, the anthropology of energy has been gaining momentum, and some heat. Concerns about rethinking consumerist technological habits and assumptions in the high-energy usage parts of the globe have collided with recognition of the failure to offer even a modicum of useful energy appliances in off-grid parts of the map, to give rise to some great questions for re-imagining social relationships with energy. The inequalities of energy distribution and the resistance of communities to accept inappropriate energy 'solutions' to livelihood problems (improved cookstoves), or intrusive infrastructures (wind farms or hydro-dams) open up Energising Social Worlds to public deliberation and conflict (generating both 'cool rationalities' and hot air in philosopher John Barry's rhetorical approach). The social sciences are being mobilised to make useful interdisciplinary contributions to research programmes designed to reduce emissions, and be energy smart. Anthropology's familiar conceptual and methodological resources have been picked up by geographers and even engineers to make sense of very unintended consequences of energy provision, and to get closer to the mythical, and usually misbehaving, 'human end-user'. This panel invites papers on all these issues, and to anthropologists who are interested to question the notion of energy in its Euro-centric, fossil fuel- and grid-centric imaginaries of propelling change, and to use the ethnographic record to help reimagine energy as intrinsic to the warmth, light, movement and convertible potential of social worlds.