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Accepted Paper:

Divided by fracking, united in despair: making sense of the conflicting voices in the UK shale gas controversy  
Anna Szolucha

Paper short abstract:

We often think about the shale gas controversy as a field marked by profound disagreement between those who oppose and those who support fracking. However, what if the conflicting sides of the controversy are affected by it in similar ways? Why do similar local experiences create more division?

Paper long abstract:

Fracking can have a profound impact on those living and working in the vicinity of shale gas developments. Yet, we rarely gain a grounded understanding of how fracking affects those who are supportive and critical of the industry as well as all those in between. Hence, we cannot appreciate the complex, iterative and localised dynamics between people’s views on fracking and the reality of living near to a shale gas pad. And even more importantly, we overlook the similarity of anti- and pro-fracking residents’ lived experiences and the ways in which they respond to the uncertain and contradictory logics of extractive development.Drawing on five years of ethnographic research and around 100 interviews across three locations in the UK, I explore the glaring similarities in how local residents, protesters, business owners, police officers and farmers, with varying opinions about fracking, experience natural gas development. I also analyse the seemingly paradoxical relation between the commonality of their experiences and their often-antagonistic relationships. I also ask how the dynamics of this social controversy and its entrenchment of conflicting views about fracking influences the relation between popular and corporate power. It is usually considered good practice in academic writing to “give voice” to the conflicting sides of a social controversy. I open this approach to critical scrutiny by highlighting how it can also facilitate corporate ways of seeing fracking communities as arenas of differing opinions, rather than as human-created environments with real impacts.

Panel Speak17c
Who speaks for energy? Responsibility and authority in the ethnographies of energy in an era of anthropogenic climate change III
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -