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Tag Archives: Energy Crisis

System of a Down



Resource depletion and anxiety are not new, nor is the paralyzing knowledge that a particular form of energy is harmful or unsustainable.  How has our relation to energy changed over time? What differences do specific energy sources make to human values and politics ? How have changing energy resources transformed culture?

This collection of scholarly essays, brief reflections, and info blurbs will focus on intersections between energy, history, and a range of cultural formations, including literature, film, art, digital media, and popular culture. We will include essays that touch on a wide range of energy resources (dung, wood/charcoal, coal, tallow, plant oils, whale oil, kerosene, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, biofuels, solar, wind, wave, steam, and human energy). We also plan to include essays on energy resources like electricity (which circulates as a secondary form of energy generated by wood, coal, etc). We are also curious about dams as projects of decolonization and modernization.

We hope for broad geographic scope in this collection, with attention to place-specific concerns and the spatial relations entailed in different forms of energy use, including what Fernando Coronil has called the “international division of nature.” If the shift from wood to coal allowed for massive increases in energy consumption with less land/woodlots devoted to energy production, as Timothy Mitchell argues, what other shifts in scale are important for thinking about the history of energy formations? As Laurie Shannon argues in a PMLA essay on tallow, the shift from energy produced within the household to modes of energy sourced elsewhere suggests that questions of scale are central for thinking about energy. Ken Hiltner’s argument that pollution increases with the changing spatial concentration of urbanLondonsuggests the urgency of contemplating energy in relation to scale in earlier periods. Is it possible that all forms of energy are “dirty” when scaled up to meet demand?

The question of periodization is crucial to this project. How do we periodize cultural production around material resources that have been unread or elided by critics? How do questions of energy become legible in moments of crisis? What is the role of energy scarcity and profligacy? The role of an “energy unconscious” delieates one mode of analysis, as does the simultaneity of different modes of energy resources. Thus periodization is not a simple matter. Consider Dipesh Chakrabarty’s attention to the coincidence of the age of Enlightenment and the Anthropocene, Mitchell’s comparison of wood, coal, oil and the forms of social and political organization they entail, and Michael Pollan’s account of the shift from the sun and fossil fuels in the industrialization of food.

In addition to periodization, we’re interested in essays that explore methodology: protocols of reading that are attuned to questions of energy (or its absence) within a given text. How do we read for energy in relation to the sociology and materiality of literary production and distribution? How do we identify cultural forms that are particularly attuned to these questions? How does energy put pressure on literary and cultural forms? Does genre look different when we think about energy?

We hope to gather writing that is multiply interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from political economy, political ecology, environmental history, eco-criticism, postcolonial and globalization studies, materialisms old and new, including thing theory and actor network theory.


March 15, 2012 for abstracts

December 1, 2012 for essays

Length:  6000 words


(As indicated above, in addition to research essays we are interested in including shorter pieces related to any of the issues explored in this collection).

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‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)


‘Maximum levels of boredom

Disguised as maximum fun’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: (recording) and (live, at the Belle View pub, Bangor, north Wales)  


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The Geopolitics of Global Energy: International Competition, Rivalry and Conflict

The Geopolitics of Global Energy: International Competition, Rivalry and Conflict
An International Workshop on 28-29 May 2009, Birkbeck College, University of London

For further information and free registration please contact:


In recent years questions surrounding energy security have become the focus of international security and global politics. A number of issues have been central to these debates:

    • The impact of high energy prices on economic development and 
political stability within states
    • The dependence of industrialised states on sources of energy from 
unstable geopolitical zones
    • The role of states in securing access to and control of energy 
    • The relationship between commercial energy producers and 
distributors to governments
    • The geopolitical consequences of the increased leverage of energy 
producing states
    • The international political and geopolitical consequences of the 
competition amongst states to secure access to and control of energy resources

This workshop brings together a number of international specialists on energy security and geopolitics in order to shed further theoretical and empirical light on contemporary resource competition and rivalry, especially – though not exclusively – between the West and its Eurasian contenders. In particular the workshop will compare and contrast the strategies and policies of states in the Europe, the Americas, East Asia and Africa, as both producers and consumers of energy. It seeks, additionally, to explore with greater rigour and precision the meaning and purchase of the ‘geopolitical’ turn in contemporary international studies.




Mark BASSIN, University of Birmingham – ‘Energy and the Geopolitics of Russian Neo-Imperialism’

Cyrus BINA, University of Minnesota, USA – ‘Oil: The Geopolitics of Energy in the Epoch of Globalization’

Klaus DODDS, Royal Holloway, University of London – ‘The Arctic in the Global Imagination: Geopolitics, Resources, and Environment’

Dominick JENKINS, formerly of Greenpeace, London – ‘Churchill, Oil and the Royal Navy’

Ray KIELY, Queen Mary, University of London – ‘Theories of Imperialism, Contemporary Geopolitics and the Rise of China’

Kees VAN DER PIJL, University of Sussex – ‘The West, Georgia and Russia-Rearticulating Politics and Economics’

Gonzalo POZO-MARTIN, School of Slavonic and East-European Studies, University of London – ‘Inflammable Politics: Russia, Ukraine and NATO Enlargement’

Sam RAPHAEL, University of Kingston – ‘US Empire and the Control of Oil: Lessons from the Caspian Basin’

Doug STOKES, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Kent – ‘Unpacking the Logics of the US Global Oil Order’

Javier VADELL, Catholic University, Belo Horizonte, Minais Gerais, Brazil – ‘The Chinese Economic Penetration of South America and the US Response’

Paris YEROS, Catholic University, Belo Horizonte, Minais Gerais, Brazil – ‘Emergent (Sub) Imperialisms: The New Scramblers for Africa’s Energy and Minerals’


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The Commoner

New Issue


The Commoner, No.13 – Winter 2009 – ‘There’s an Energy Crisis (among others) in the Air …





Kolya Abramsky and Massimo De Angelis: Introduction: Energy Crisis (among others) is in the Air


Tom Keefer: Fossil Fuels, Capitalism, and Class Struggle


Kolya Abramsky: Energy and Labor in the World Economy


Evo Morales: Open Letter on Climate Change: “Save the Planet from Capitalism”


George Caffentzis: A Discourse on Prophetic Method: Oil Crises and Political Economy, Past and Future


Ewa Jasiewicz: Iraqi Oil Workers’ Movements: Spaces of Transformation and Transition


Patrick Bond: The Global Carbon Trade Debate: For or Against the Privatisation of the Air?


Ariel Salleh: Climate Change, Social Change – and the ‘Other Footprint’


Shannon Walsh: The Smell of Money: Alberta’s Tar Sands


Jane Kruse and Preben Maegaard: An Authentic Story about how a Local Community became Self-sufficient in Pollution Free Energy and Created a Source of Income for Citizens


TRAPESE Collective: The Rocky Road to a Real Transition: The Transition Towns Movement and What it Means for Social Change


Monica Vargas Collazos: The Ecological Debt of Agro-fuels


Tatiana Roa Avendano and Jessica Toloza: Dynamics of a Songful Resistance


Sergio Oceransky: Wind Conflicts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec – The Role of Ownership and Decision-Making Models in Indigenous Resistance to Wind Projects in Southern Mexico


Jane Kruse: The End of One Danish Windmill Co-operative


Plus videos …



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