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Who speaks for energy? This panel explores how responsibility and authority frame the social worlds of energy production, consumption, distribution and disposal; and, the role of anthropologists in researching and representing the people, communities, and non-humans connected by energy.
Energy is a necessity of life. How energy is harvested from the environment, however, and the repercussions of energy consumption, are of growing public concern and a central contributor to anthropogenic climate change. In a global yet highly unequal energy economy, questions of responsibility and authority are crucial to understanding the entangled social and material complexities of our energy present(s) and futures. This panel explores the ethical tensions and power dynamics vested in the social worlds of energy production, consumption, distribution and disposal. We ask: How are responsibility and authority crafted, accepted and challenged by those who speak for energy? And, in turn, by the people, communities, and non-humans that are dependent on and adversely affected by human energy practices? How do non-humans figure in energy dilemmas? Can, and should they be represented in the anthropology of energy, and by whom? How do we reconcile analysis of the energy sector’s provision of global energy needs and contribution to climate change with the voices, stories, beliefs, ethical sensibilities, lives and livelihoods of people who work in the fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable energy industries? Do anthropologists have a responsibility to avoid favouring or opposing some energy sources and voices over others? How do we, as anthropologists, navigate the ethical tensions of working with conflicting voices and demands for representation in a highly contentious field? This panel welcomes papers that reflect on the ethical challenges, tensions, and opportunities associated with ethnographically researching energy from field sites around the world.