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Semester 1

The Anthropology of Energy in the Global South (SCAN10078)


Social Anthropology





Normal Year Taken


Delivery Session Year



Visiting students must have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses.

Course Summary

Access to modern energy is seen as fundamental to reducing poverty, and improving education, livelihoods and health across the global South. Yet in the context of climate change and the UN's sustainable development goals the question of what kind of energy is appropriate for whom has become more important than ever. Meanwhile, the quest for new reserves of fossil fuels and attempts to increase the use of alternative energy is transforming relationships between the global south and the global north. This course approaches the study of energy, fuel and electricity in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the Pacific as the study of social, cultural and political change. We will explore both the role of energy in post-colonial projects of nationalist modernisation and the place of energy in contemporary projects of socio-economic development. We will explore the social and cultural politics of oil, coal, hydroelectricity, wind and solar. And we will shift focus between big infrastructure projects, like dams and coal plants, designed to generate electricity for people living on the grid to small, decentralised infrastructures projects designed for those living off the grid.

Course Description

This course will introduce students to perspectives on energy from anthropology (and politics, sociology and geography), and to studies of low carbon energy transitions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The course is built around weekly case studies drawn from diverse global contexts and focused on specific examples. The course will utilise a variety of research-led teaching and learning techniques, applying critical pedagogical approaches and building key skills to apply innovative research methods. The course will be of particular interest to students taking programmes in international development, social anthropology, politics and international relations, sociology, human geography as well as area studies, economics and law. Indicative themes and topics: * The First Fuels: Labour, Colonialism and the Anthropocene, * Power, Modernity and the Grid, * Life off the Grid: Energy Poverty in Light, Heat and Power, * Democratic Fuel? Coal, Justice, and Displacement, * Lifeblood: Oil and Extractive Geopolitics in the Global South, * Damned by the Development: Hydroelectric Infrastructure, * Capitalising on the Sun: From Decentralised Solar Futures to Enclosing the Solar Commons, * Green Grabbing: Wind, Biofuels and Corporate Power, * From Uranium to Lithium: The Techno-politics of Extraction and Waste, * Overheating: Climate emergency and energy demand in the global south.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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