What Is AOS?

After Oil School (AOS)

University of Alberta, August 19-22, 2015

The first After Oil School (AOS) will bring together experts in energy humanities from the University of Alberta and around the world to explore, critically and creatively, the social, cultural and political changes necessary to facilitate a full-scale transition from fossil fuels to new forms of energy. In addition to scholars and graduate students from the U of A, the AOS will be attended by experts from Duke U, Durham U (UK), Emily Carr, McGill U, OCAD, Rice U, U of Calgary, U of Iowa, U of Oregon, Warwick U (UK), among other institutions.

A foundational premise underpins the research of those participating in this original event: that energy is crucial in determining how we live. The dominant energy forms of any one era (coal in the recent past, oil today) fundamentally shape the attributes and capabilities of societies in that era. Accordingly, a genuine and comprehensive shift in the energy that we use today demands, in addition to the adoption of renewable, ecologically sustainable energy sources, a wholesale transformation of contemporary society—of those political structures, built environments, social dynamics, educational systems, discursive modes, values, practices, habits, beliefs and affects that, seeming unrelated to energy, exist as they do because of the shaping force of oil. Oil is a necessarily limited resource; it is a resource whose use does significant harm to the planet’s environment; and it is a resource around which we shaped modern life—a fact that we’ve yet to properly grasp.

The AOS is space designed to allow leading thinkers in the field of the “energy humanities” to develop the founding commitments, research questions, and areas of research for this new area of study. Participants attending this year’s AOS will focus on better understanding the challenges of energy impasse and energy transition. “Impasse” names the problem and “transition” the urgency: modern societies remain deeply reluctant to venture the monumental re-conception and re-fashioning of core modes, practices and values that must occur to allow genuine energy transition in the contemporary moment. Two linked commitments connect those who will be attending the event:

1) to explore and try to comprehend the enormous demands and complex possibilities involved in the global passage from oil-based to post-oil societies;


2) to embrace the challenge of devising new modes through which to communicate such new knowledge.

After Oil School is supported by funding from the Kule Institute for Advanced Study, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, and Art Gallery of Alberta.