Special Issues

Exploring the Anthropology of Energy: Ethnography, Energy and Ethics

Edited by Mette M. High and Jessica M. Smith

Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 30, Pages 1-116 (August 2017)


This Special Issue explores the anthropology of energy by highlighting the unique contributions an ethnographic perspective offers to understanding energy and ethics. We propose the term energy ethics to capture the ways in which people understand and ethically evaluate energy. The term encompasses the multiple and varied ways that people experience, conceptualize, and evaluate matters of energy. Out of the diversity of fieldsites, research methods, conceptual frameworks, and disciplinary backgrounds that characterize the articles in the special issue, three clear themes emerge. The first is that multiple, conflicting understandings of energy animate how people engage it in their everyday lives and work. The second is that diversity exists in how people make ethical judgments about the role of energy in the types of ‘good societies’ they imagine for themselves. Finally, the articles underscore the significance of government interests and public policy for shaping people’s experiences of and ethical judgments about energy. These perspectives reveal the value of research that is attuned to the ways in which people view the world and the place of energy in it, opening up space to identify and reflect on our taken-for-granted assumptions.