Reading and Writing Groups

Group 1: Triggering Transition

Reading Group 1

What has driven previous energy transitions on the scale we now recognize as vital to a society after oil?  Campaigns to end oil dependency have been proposed through moral arguments, cultural reforms, structural analyses, political interventions, environmental campaigns, economic reforms, and so on, but this group will consider whether previous transitions were won or lost on these registers. We will also tackle the question about technical transition (from one energy source to an another, and the infrastructure this implies) vs. social transition (what habits and modes of belonging put transitions into practice?).


  • Jonathan Flatley “How a Revolutionary Counter-Mood Is Made,” New Literary History 43 (2012)
  • Lauren Berlant, “On the Desire for the Political,” from Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011).
  • Alvaro Garcia Linera, “Geopolitics of the Amazon,”×11.pdf
  • Derrick Hindery, From Enron to Evo: Pipeline Politics, Global Environmentalism, and Indigenous Rights in Bolivia (University of Arizona Press, 2013)
  • Salma Monani, “Energizing Environmental Activism? Environmental Justice in Extreme Oil: The Wilderness and Oil on Ice.” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture1 (2008): 119-27.
  • Andreas Malm, “The Origins of Fossil Capital” Historical Materialism 1 (2013)
  • Vaclav Smil, “Coming Transitions: Expectations and Realities” from Energy Transitions (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010).
  • Imre Szeman, “How to Know about Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures.”
  • Elizabeth Shove and Gordon Walker, “What is Energy For? Social Practice and Energy Demand.” Theory, Culture & Society5 (2014): 41-58.

Writing Group 1

Considering historical precedence, what cultural strategies are available to trigger and expedite a large-scale transition of energy regimes?


Group 2: Energy Impasse and Political Actors

Reading Group 2

If we understand energy impasse as the unique social challenges of an unprecedented, global transition from oil to renewable energy, who is positioned to address these challenges most effectively?  If governments have largely failed to adequately respond to the need for energy transition, what kind of politics and actors can create the conditions for change? What response would be most effective from governments, international coalitions, industry, and citizens.


  • Kolya Abramsky, “Sparking an Energy Revolution” from Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-Petrol World
  • Dominic Boyer, “Energopower: An Introduction.”
  • Gavin Bridges, Stefan Bouzarovskib, et al, “Geographies of Energy Transition: Space, Place and the Low-Carbon Economy”
  • Jennifer Jacquet, Chapters 1-3 from Is Shame Necessary? (Pantheon, 2014)
  • Midnight Notes and Friends, “Promissory Notes: From Crisis to Commons” from Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution (AK Press)
  • Timothy Mitchell, “Machines of Democracy”; “Sabotage” from Carbon Democracy
  • Platform London, “Energy Beyond Neoliberalism”
  • Alberto Toscano, “Lineaments of the State”
  • Joanna Zylinska, Chapters 1-2; 5-6; 8-10 fro Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene (selections)

Writing Group 2

How does the problem of energy force us to rethink our traditional notions and categories of political agency?


Group 3:  Energy and Interdisciplinarity

Reading Group 3

By incorporating humanities scholars and artists, Energy Humanities is in a unique position to theorize the relationship between energy and culture and to respond to the problems of energy impasse. Energy Humanities scholars are now contributing much to the conversation about energy that has been traditionally dominated by science and politics, such as historical analysis, theories of representation, aesthetic strategies, and critical attention to alternative narratives of the past and future. How should we theorize the contribution of energy humanities and mobilize this knowledge to reach a wider range of publics?


  • Mel Evans, “Introduction” to Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts.
  • Stephanie LeMenager: “Petro-Melancholia: The BP Blowout and the Arts of Grief” or Introduction to Living Oil: Petroleum and Culture in the American Century
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff, “Visualizing the Anthropocene”
  • Timothy Morton, “Introduction” and “Imagining Ecology Without Nature” from Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
  • James Nisbet, “The Art of Processing Anti Form, Energy, and Ecological Materiality,” in Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s
  • Brooke Singer, “The U.S. Oil Fix” (map), in An Atlas of Radical Cartography
  • Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén, chs 1-3 Energy and Experience (MCM Prime Press, 2015)
  • Imre Szeman, “How to Know about Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures”

Writing Group 3

How is the use of energy entwined with representations and narratives about modernity and the environment?  Correspondingly, how do artistic productions reflect, critique, and inform our understanding and use of energy?


Group 4: Case Study 1 (Energy and Demographics)

 Writing Group 4

Cheap hydrocarbons made possible the greatest surge in global demographics the world has ever seen. Expensive energy turns that growth into a source of near genocidal crisis. If we consider a transition to a post-oil system, how can we delink the support of population and global economy from the oil industry? What prevents populations from reproducing themselves without the global commodity chain, including agriculture grown on complex and increasingly costly fertilizers? What policy or political shifts might correct this?


  • Robert Biel, “Visioning a Sustainable Energy Future: The Case of Urban Food-Growing.” Theory, Culture & Society5 (2014): 183-202.
  • Dipesh Chakarabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”
  • Carlo M. Cipolla, introduction to The Economic History of World Population
  • Joel E. Cohen, “Population, economics, environment and culture: an introduction to human carrying capacity” (Journal of Applied Ecology 34, 1997):
  • M Jean-Claude Débeir, Jean-Paul Deléage and Daniel Hémery, “Energy and Society”; “Energy, Ecology, Capitalism: The Turning Point” from In the Servitude of Power
  • Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era: Introduction; “Neo-Malthusians”; “Social Limits of Growth”
  • Jeremy Grantham, “The Big Crunch,”
  • Bob Johnson, Carbon Nation: Fossil Fuels in the Making of American Culture (Part 1: Divergence)
  • Simon Kuznets, Population and Economic Growth,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 3 “Population Problems” (June 1967)
  • Thomas Malthus, chs 1-2, 5, 16, 17, 19 “An Essay on the Principle of Population,”
  • Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, “People or Population” from Ecofeminism
  • Vaclav Smil, “Coming Transitions: Expectations and Realities” from Energy Transitions (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010).
  • John Urry, “The Problem of Energy.” Theory, Culture & Society5 (2014): 3-20.
  • Leslie White, “Energy and the Evolution of Culture.”

Writing Group 4

What will the outcomes be of global pressures on accessibility and availability of food, water and energy?


Group 5: Case Study 2 (Energy and Indigenous Communities)

Reading Group 5

The production of energy requires resource extraction according to geological features rather than political and cultural borders, and this has resulted in a long history of conflicts between indigenous communities and those seeking resources. These readings consider those communities and their often precarious position and contested relationships with government and industry over resource extraction and territory.


  • Alvaro Garcia Linera, “Geopolitics of the Amazon,”×11.pdf
  • Cymene Howe, “Anthropocenic Ecoauthority: The Winds of Oaxaca,” Anthropological Quarterly, Special Issue Energopower and Biopower in Transition (2014)
  • Rashid Khalidi, “The Middle East: Geostrategy and Oil”, The Energy Reader (Wiley-Blackwell 2010)
  • Michael L. Ross, “The Paradoxical Wealth of Nations,” The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations (Princeton UP, 2012)
  • Gisa Weszkalnys, “Oil’s Magic: Contestation and Materiality,” Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies (Left Coast Press, 2013)

Writing Group 5

What conflict and security issues might emerge as a result of changing global pressures surrounding energy and indigenous communities?


Group 6: Energy Futures

Reading Group 6

How should we think about our future with energy? What should our relationship to energy be? These readings work to understand possible energy futures and imagine new alternatives. What could be the cultural, social, and economic, impacts of our current energy regimes (e.g., mining, fracking, deep‑sea drilling) moving forward? What are radical energy alternatives? How must we imagine the world differently to change our relationship with energy?


  • Gökçe Güne, “Ergos: A New Energy Currency,” Anthropological Quarterly, Special Issue Energopower and Biopower in Transition (2014)
  • Hwa Yol Jung, “Marxism and Deep Ecology in Postmodernity: From Oeconomicus to Homo Ecologicus,” Thesis Eleven 86 (1991)
  • Timothy Mitchell, “Conclusion: No More Counting on Oil,” Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (Verso, 2013)
  • Herman Scheer, “Scenario” and Ch. 11 from The Solar Economy (London: Earthscan, 2005)
  • Harold White, “Energy Consumption as Cultural Practice: Implications for the Theory and Policy of Energy Use,” Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies (Left Coast Press, 2013)

Writing Group 6

What range of scenarios is currently on the table for imagining our future with energy?