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Accepted Paper:

Racist histories and unjust futures: exploring discourses of energy infrastructure within the context of current American debates over historical memory  
Elizabeth Kelley Andrea Wright (William Mary)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research at utility-scale solar projects and household solar, we investigate how current engagements with energy production reinforce existing class, gender, and racial hierarchies, while using the logics of environmentalism to naturalize these inequalities

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, we explore how gender, class, and race inform collective versus individual engagements with renewable power. We do so by examining the divergent discourses concerning solar energy, in the context of installation of larger utility-scale installations versus at household level (rooftop solar) . Our ethnographic research, based in Virginia, USA, includes a successful community effort in Culpepper, Virginia to block the construction of multiple utility-scale solar projects. These proposed projects would have been built near or on land designated as Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, and community members, seeking to protect a historical legacy, protested the installation. We examine the ethics involved in rejecting large-scale solar projects, exploring which historical narratives are preserved, and what histories and futures are ellided. Our project compares this community response to utility-scale solar with individual discourses concerning rooftop solar, a costly investment available only to the few. By comparing the political discourses that emerge around individual and utility-scale projects, we demonstrate how current engagements with energy production replicate and reinforce existing class, gender, and racial hierarchies, while simultaneously using the logics of the nation and environmentalism to naturalize these inequalities.

Panel P020
At the grid edge: homes, neighbourhoods and energy markets (Energy Anthropology Network)
  Session 1 Tuesday 21 July, 2020, -