Latin American Anthropology Seminar - Place and Context in the Energy Lifecycle

Place and Context in the Energy Lifecycle: A Critical Engagement with Energy Justice

Adolfo Mejía Montero, University of Edinburgh

Convenor: Natalia Buitron (LSE)

Academic debates around energy have been traditionally dominated by the natural sciences and techno-economic approaches, even if the world of energy involves fundamental questions that only social sciences are equipped to answer. Against this background, over the last few decades a phenomenon of social sciences integration to energy debates has been developing providing thriving scholarship like Energy Justice, which acknowledges the socio-technical nature of energy systems. Since the term was coined ten years ago energy justice scholars have developed a methodological and theoretical toolkit to identify, discuss and provide potential solutions to (in)justices embedded in energy systems around the world. This paper critically engages with the ‘lifecycle framework’ which promises to enable whole system interpretations related to the potential synergies and manifestations of injustice, existing at stages from resource extraction to waste. To do so, it draws upon ethnographic fieldwork around the development of utility-scale wind power projects undertaken in Oaxaca, Mexico, between 2017 and 2019, where a number of regional peasant and indigenous groups have led sustained resistance to utility-scale wind power on the basis of environmental, political and socio-economic impacts. The paper demonstrates how pre-existent and embedded cultural and environmental relationships determine the way in which energy justice is understood and constructed. In doing so, it highlights the existent tension in energy justice by corroborating the usefulness of the framework while urging caution towards universalistic and staged approaches to assessing injustices in energy systems.

Date: 26 November 2020