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Across Europe 'the grid edge', as instantiated in distributed, decentralised and off-grid energy systems, is emerging as a space for innovation and market experimentation. Our panel establishes it as a crucial site for anthropological inquiry and explores ways to both critique and intervene in it.
Across Europe the grid edge has become a site of innovation, experimentation and legal exception. Extra-regulatory markets such as peer-to-peer energy trading are being trialled. Algorithms and control systems are being piloted to automate household appliances. Communities are becoming virtual power plants. The emerging distributed, decentralised, and off-grid energy systems profoundly challenge the universalist logic of national energy infrastructures and create an urgent role for anthropological knowledge.
Anthropologists are entering these spaces to critique and to intervene. They question the assumptions supporting energy market construction and bring attention to non-market perspectives. They interrogate the inter- and intra-household dynamics that are created and destabilised as new flows of energy interact with existing gender, class and power relations. They examine the ethics, moralities, and values that are implicated and invoked. They are working in interdisciplinary ways, using interventionist approaches and are challenging the creation of binaries that pit automation against human control.
In this panel we discuss this as a new horizon for anthropological inquiry. One that is provoked by the changing ways energy is being negotiated within homes, circulated through neighbourhoods, and getting entangled in local markets. We invite papers that critique 'low carbon transition', provide ethnographic accounts of energy, or offer methodological innovations for collaborative, experimental or interdisciplinary working. We are particularly interested in insights from global south contexts and its cross-cultural comparison with the 'smart energy' narrative in the global north. Overall, we invite broad critical engagement with issues raised by doing anthropology at the grid edge.