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Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies


Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies



This path-breaking volume explores cultures of energy, the underlying but under-appreciated dimensions of both crisis and innovation in resource use around the globe. Theoretical chapters situate pressing energy issues in larger conceptual frames, and ethnographic case studies reveal energy as it is imagined, used, and contested in a variety of cultural contexts. Contributors address issues including the connection between resource flows and social relationships in energy systems; cultural transformation and notions of progress and collapse; the blurring of technology and magic; social tensions that accompany energy contraction; and sociocultural changes required in affluent societies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Each of five thematic sections concludes with an integrative and provocative conversation among the authors. The volume is an ideal tool for teaching unique, contemporary, and comparative perspectives on social theories of science and technology in undergraduate and graduate courses.



Publication Date



Left Coast Press


Walnut Creek, CA


Energy Policy | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sustainability


Description and reviews courtesy of Left Coast Press.

Subject Areas

Energy consumption -- Social aspects; Power resources -- Social aspects

Author/Editor Bio

Thomas Love is Professor of Anthropology at Linfield College. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California - Davis, an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of California - Davis, an M.S. in Ecology from the University of California - Davis, and a B.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University.

Sarah Strauss is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. She holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.P.H. from San Jose State University, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College.

Stephanie Rupp is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College, City University of New York. She holds a Ph.D from Yale University, an M.Phil. from Yale University, an M.Ed. from Harvard University, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College.


"This remarkable collection achieves two important goals. The first is to place the central challenges of energy and environment in a globalizing world in a truly cultural perspective, one which takes account of issues of meaning, value, diversity and agency. The second is to allow its authors to engage in debate and dialogue within the book itself, thus presenting ethnography as dialogue on a topic of vital public interest. These dual accomplishments will make the book valuable for scholars in anthropology, geography, environmental studies and social policy and to students seeking a clear and accessible introduction to key debates on the social life of energy." - Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University

"One of the most important anthropology books published this century, Cultures of Energy is a guide to all the hot-topic issues which the next generation of researchers (and citizens) will face. This volume signals the emergence of a mature anthropology of energy; comprehensive, ambitious and deeply engaged. The authors demonstrate the adaptive magic of an old discipline, moving back and forth between the concrete and abstract, the tangible resistance of chemistry and physics, and the complexity of culturally defined needs and comforts. This is the only book that gives a comprehensive view of the range and depth of a flourishing field of research. The authors guide us from the most abstract questions about the nature of energy itself, to the pragmatics of markets and regulation. Along the way they give us the intellectual tools to address a troubling future where energy will no longer be cheap and abundant." - Richard Wilk, Provost Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University

"This bracing collection returns anthropology to the topic of energy. Uniting theory with contemporary problems, and both with conversations among anthropologists, local folk and developers, the volume shows how energy sustains our lives and how we hoard, sell and share it. Energy is anthropology’s lodestone for it brings together the discipline’s special perspectives from ecology to health, from the occult to the commons, and from power to culture. To have a livable and sustainable earth, the subject of energy requires anthropology’s touch just as for every reader there are touchstones in this collection." - Steve Gudeman, University of Minnesota

Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies