Energy In/Out of Place: A Virtual Energy Humanities Research-Creation Conference

Caleb Wellum's picture
December 15, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, Geography, Indigenous Studies, Research and Methodology, Area Studies

Energy In/Out of Place: A Virtual Energy Humanities Research-Creation Conference

May 19-22, 2020

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;

University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; and

online around the world

Contact info:

Workshop keywords:

energy; place; low carbon research; methods; energy transition; research-creation


The accumulating crises and injustices of climate change are drastically reordering the composition and characteristics of places around the world. Yet, these interlinked harms and pressures vary highly by locale. Similarly, a global transition to more sustainable forms of energy is required, but energy transition is highly local and complex, involving new technologies, behaviors, values, and social forms that must be collectively imagined and emplaced. Transition will therefore proceed differently in different locations, but everywhere it will require deep changes in the way we do things, from business and culture, to academia and politics.
This virtual research-creation workshop calls on participants to explore the many roles of energy in shaping and mediating a diverse array of places around the world. It asks participants to reflect on sites in and around where they live and work that carry potential for deep changes in the energy regimes that dominate everyday life. What historical forms have been etched into the landscape, infrastructures, and imaginaries of the site? How does energy traverse geographic and social boundaries, making and unmaking places in the process? What flows of energy, conversely, might chart new relations to place? How do global energy systems localize themselves in different geographies, cultures, and quotidian experiences—and how might we, as researchers, seek to do the same?

The Energy In/Out of Place workshop will bring together a small group of scholars and artists from around the world to share their research and collaborate in an online process of comparative research-creation and inquiry. Distributed, site-specific engagements with different energy places will be shared through asynchronous virtual documentation and exchanges, in addition to livestreamed panel discussions and keynote lectures from Natalie Loveless and Sheena Wilson (University of Alberta) and Kirby Calvert (University of Guelph).
In April 2020, before the workshop begins, all participants will be given a research prompt that will direct them through an open ended process of documenting the engagements between place and energy that are evident at their site. Documentation may take the form of ethnographic or creative writing, photography, drawing, audio or video recordings, or other media. The resulting materials will be uploaded to a website, along with short critical assessments of the process, in advance of the workshop.
During the week of the workshop (May 19-22) participants will be able to participate in both live and asynchronous discussions and lectures, comparing the results and strategies of different participant teams. Afterwards, participants will have the opportunity to revise their documentation and write reflections on their findings for publication in an artist book based on the workshop proceedings.

We encourage proposals from individuals or groups that include the following:

1. A description of the place that the individual or group would like to consider, including its past, present, and/or future energy uses, relations, and flows (~500 words);

2. A short biographical statement from each member of the group that identifies the skills and methods they will bring to the process of research-creation (~250 words each);

3. If small grants were to be made available for individuals or groups, a rough budget outline of how these might be allocated in the research process (transportation, materials, equipment, etc.) (up to $500 CAD).

Participants may work alone, or in groups of roughly 1-4 collaborators.
The organizers hope to choose teams from a variety of career stages in and outside of academia with relations to a wide range of places: urban, suburban, rural, ex-urban; production or consumption; domestic or workplace; Global South or Global North.
Proposal submissions are due on December 15, 2019 and can be sent to as an attached .doc or .pdf file.

A large portion of academia’s carbon footprint comes from air travel to conferences, workshops, and other meetings. International conferences have grown in number and size over the past fifty years and have become increasingly important to academic advancement, although they produce significant amounts of waste and questions of travel funding and global mobility limit the kinds of people who can travel to these gatherings. E-conferencing offers a means to simultaneously address these climate and research equity concerns. As energy humanities scholars, we have a vested and situated interest in using and promoting these alternatives.
Additionally, we seek to explore the affordances of the virtual conference format in order to bring more than just scholars’ faces and words to the screen, but as a value-added proposition in which multi-sensory worlds, local contexts, and creative forms of representation can be analytically and rhetorically mobilized within our research. We see virtual conferences as an opportunity to deepen comparative engagements with the question of global energy transition, both in this workshop’s content and organizing principles.


Contact Info: 

Organizers: Anne Pasek, Emily Roehl, Caleb Wellum

Energy Futures Postdoctoral Fellows, Transitions in Energy, Culture, and Society, University of Alberta and University of Waterloo, Canada

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