Accepted Paper:

We come to sublime electric worlds  
Laura Watts (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Sunset over an island sea, a tide energy turbine comes out of eclipse and the world changes for me, for many. That world is in the spaces between words. The encounter, empirical, infrastructured, electric, sublime, is silent under the skin. How to write this silence as empirical method?

Paper long abstract:


I remember rain swirling in the air as I stared at the battered old fishing shed, spray-painted with those iconic letters, accented for a moment by the sweep of a rainbow overhead. The graffiti met everyone who stepped off the ferry onto the islands where I had been studying the energy future. I knew something profound about my ethnographic fieldsite in that moment, but what did I know? It was the same when I stood and watched a tide energy turbine come out of eclipse, high up on a gantry above a sunlit sea, its sign glowing with



Beside me, marine scientists had also watched, and hundreds of industry visitors have since followed, drawn, not just to see, but to feel an energy future. How to write empirically about this encounter between place and person, when the world changes? In these moments naturalcultural, energetic landscape is not 'out there' but gets under the skin and makes the blood beat. This presentation will explore STS methods for writing encounters with infrastructured landscapes. It will move from anthropologist Susan Lepselter's reminder that uncanny stories have an irreducible openness, akin to reading poetry, to a poetic attention to both letters and the space between them. Might we write our worlds as much in space, shape, and absence, as in letters, and come to make a method for writing the uncanny, and the sublime, unspeakable moments that make our electric worlds.

Panel A13
Of other landscapes