Accepted Paper:

Reconfiguring regional energy spaces: competing dispositives and imaginaries  


Ludger Gailing (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space)

Paper short abstract:

Conceptualising competing sociotechnical realities and imaginaries from a dispositive perspective means exploring networks where power is inscribed in spatial ensembles and visions. The paper analyses regions with both a fossil-fuel- or nuclear-based generation of electricity and renewable energies.

Paper long abstract:

Socio-technical arrangements are related to strong national imaginaries. But at the same time, technologies and infrastructures become materialized by being closely interlinked with specific places, meet with different subnational expectations and are politicized by local and regional communities. Following the "spatial turn" in STS studies, cities and regions are crucial for understanding socio-technical realities and futures. The paper examines the spatial organisation of energy transitions directing the focus towards aspects of reconfiguring regional energy spaces. The concept of "energy spaces" does not only refer to spatial aspects of infrastructures like power plants and grids. Instead, it also points to regional governance arrangements, power dimensions, conflicts and visions related to the spatiality of energy.

By analysing empirically the tensions between old and new energy spaces, the paper explores regions with both a traditional, fossil-fuel- or nuclear-based generation of electricity and renewable energy generation. The empirical cases - the Rhenisch lignite mining district (Germany) and Britain's Energy Coast in Cumbria (UK) - will be analysed and compared with the help of the dispositive approach, a Foucauldian concept for studying aspects of socio-materiality and power. The dispositive approach is suited for showing how particular energy projects and discourses are embedded in socio-technical arrangements. Taking up a dispositive perspective in conceptualising energy transitions means empirically exploring strategic network relations where power is collectively produced and inscribed in socio-technical spatial ensembles and the corresponding visions. Old and new energy spaces with its competing socio-materialities and imaginaries are the outcomes and the foundations of these dispositives.

Panel D01
Politicizing futures. When conflicting visions meet