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Social studies of energy and the making and unmaking of energy resources

October 30 - October 31

Date: October 30th and 31st 2024, welcoming reception October 29th

Venue: National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen

Submission: abstracts max. 300 words, March 31st, notification of acceptance April 15th, full papers October 1st . For abstract submission and queries please write to Ask Greve Johansen agj@plan.aau.dk.

Keynote speakers:
• Kristin Asdal, Professor, TIK Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo
• Gavin Bridge, Professor, Department of Geography, Durham University
• Gisa Weszkalnys, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Organizing committee: Peter Karnøe (Professor, Department of Sustainability and Planning, Aalborg University), Jens Iuel-Stissing (Associate Professor, Department of Sustainability and Planning, Aalborg University), Ask Greve Johansen (Postdoc, Department of Sustainability and Planning, Aalborg University), José Ossandón (Associate Professor, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School).

Fees: the conference (and conference dinner) will be free of charge for participants, but participants must cover their accommodation and traveling expenses.

Funding: this conference is conducted and financed in the context of the study “Green transition through dynamics of problematizations: How forms of expertise influence the financial and social valuation of energy resources in Denmark” funded by the Independent Research Fund, Denmark. Research team: Peter Karnøe (PI, Aalborg University), Susse Georg (Aalborg University), Ask Greve Johansen (Aalborg University), Peter Holm Jacobsen (Copenhagen Business School), Julia Kirch Kirkegaard (Technical University of Denmark), Troels Krarup (Aalborg University), José Ossandón (Copenhagen Business School), Trine Pallesen (Copenhagen Business School), Inge Røpke (Aalborg University), Jens Iuel-Stissing (Aalborg University), Emil Urhammer (Aalborg University).

Call for papers. Social studies of energy and the making and unmaking of energy resources

With the risk of climate catastrophe, energy has rightly become one of the most crucial global maters of collective concern. This, of course, has provoked vast amounts of research, not least from the growing body of literature known as social studies of energy. Social studies of energy have, in the past, rehearsed diverse analytical angles and empirical objects from where to anchor their research (Ariztía et al 2017): some have focused on large infrastructures and socio-technical systems (i.e. Hughes 1983), others on the government of transition pathways (i.e. Verbong & Geels 2007), socio-environmental controversies (e.g. McAdam et al 2010), or practices (i.e. Shove & Walker 2014).

This main aim of this conference is to gather researchers that take the energy resource as their focal point. Energy resources have certainly already received significant attention. Work by Bridge and colleagues (Bakker & Bridge 2006, Bridge 2011, Bridge 2014, Kama 2020, Kama & Kuchler 2019, Kuchler & Bridge 2018, Kuchler & Bridge 2023) have productively connected a long-standing interest in resources from within geography with more recent discussions on materiality and ontological politics in STS and humanities more widely (Asdal
& Huse 2023, Mitchell 2011). More recent work by STS and valuation studies scholars (for instance the series of studies from France collected by Labussière & Nadaï 2018) and studies developed by anthropologists (Richardson & Weszkalnys 2014, Weszkalnys 2011, Weszkalnys 2016) have pursued a similar interest. What these bodies of literature demonstrate is the need to pay more attention to the making and unmaking of energy resources: to understand how particular materials are made energy commodities, their various forms of economization, assetization, and greening, and the vast array of devices, modes of expertise, materials, stakeholders, social movements, and practices that participate in those processes.

What we expect to achieve with this conference is twofold: to consolidate a dialogue between the different strands of energy resources studies, and, perhaps more importantly, to generate an empirical research agenda where the increasing variety of energy resources can be seen comparatively. We hope that by bringing together rich case studies from various parts of the world as well as various forms of energy resources, we will be able to generate better conceptualizations of the energy resource as a particular object of inquiry, and provide a different, and hopefully, useful, form of approaching the study of energy transitions and the making of more ecologically balanced economies.

We invite researchers coming from anthropology, geography, science and technology studies, sociology and related disciplines working on energy resources. We welcome submissions covering issues such as:
• Ethnographic or historical single case studies of energy resources and their various forms of economization
• Studies of the various modes of expertise and technical and economic problematizations informing policies of energy resources
• Studies that conceptualize the energy resource and their particular ontology
• Studies that compare the making and unmaking of non-renewable and renewable energy resources
• Studies that discuss the status of “carriers” like green hydrogen or properties such as “flexibility and demand response” vis-à-vis resources
• Studies of controversies regarding energy resources
• Studies of marginalized resources and forms of expertise

Ariztía, T. et al (2017), Sociologías de la energía. Hacia una agenda de investigación, Revista Internacional de Sociología, Vol. 75, Issue 1, e074-e074.
Asdal, K., & Huse, T. (2023). Nature-Made Economy: Cod, Capital, and the Great Economization of the Ocean. MIT Press.
Bakker, K. & Bridge, G. (2006), Material worlds? Resource geographies and the `mater of nature’, Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 30, Issue 1, 5-27.
Bridge, G. (2011), Resource geographies 1: Making carbon economies, old and new, Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 35, Issue 6, 820-834.
Bridge, G. (2014), Resource geographies II: The resource-state nexus, Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 38, Issue 1, 118-130.
Hughes, T. (1983), Networks of Power – Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930, John Hopkins University Press.
Kama, K. (2020). Resource-making controversies: Knowledge, anticipatory politics and economization of unconventional fossil fuels. Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 44, Issue 2, 333–356.
Kama, K., & Kuchler, M. (2019), Geo-Metrics and Geo-Politics: Controversies in Estimating European Shale Gas Resources. In: Bobbete, A., & Donovan, A. (Eds), Political Geology. Cambridge: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 105–145.
Kuchler, M., & Bridge, G. (2018), Down the black hole: Sustaining national sociotechnical imaginaries of coal in Poland, Energy Research & Social Science, Vol. 41, 136–147.
Kuchler, M. and Bridge, G. (2023), Speculating on shale: Resource-making and the ‘politics of possibility’ in
Poland and the UK, Political Geography, 107, 102978.
McAdam et al (2010), “Site Fights”: Explaining Opposition to Pipeline Projects in the Developing World, Sociological Forum, Vol.25, Issue 3, 401-427.
Mitchell, T. (2011), Carbon Democracy – Political Power in the Age of Oil, Verso.
Labussière, O. & Nadaï, A. Eds. (2018), Energy Transitions. A Socio-technical Inquiry, Palgrave Macmillan.
Richardson, T., and Weszkalnys, G. (2014), Introduction: Resource Materialities, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 87, Issue 1, 5-30.
Shove, E. & Walker (2014), What Is Energy For? Social Practice and Energy Demand, Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 31, Issue 5, 41-58.
Verbong & Geels (2007), The ongoing energy transition: Lessons from a socio-technical, multi-level analysis of the Dutch electricity system (1960-2004), Energy Policy, Vol. 35, Issue 2, 1025-1037.
Weszkalnys, G. (2011), Cursed resources, or articulations of economic theory in the Gulf of Guinea, Economy and Society, Vol. 40, Issue 3, 345-372.
Weszkalnys, G. (2016), A doubtful hope: resource affect in a future oil economy, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 127-146.


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October 31