Socio-Energy Systems in the Anthropocene: Island Metabolisms and the Contested Geographies of Energy Transition

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Climate change has moved energy-society relations centre stage. Political struggles and class relations are finding new expression in the geographies of carbon lock-in, the geographies of (renewable) energy transition, and the geo-spatialities of alternative energy futures; these struggles are themselves shaped by the materiality of socio-energy systems.

Islands have become emblematic figures in the Anthropocene. The dynamics of energy development and change on islands, embedded within complex multi-relational systems, highlights particularly well the ways in which energy transitions more generally are shaped by their spatial and material context, the need to develop frameworks that account for geographical specificity, and the ways both material location and spatial form capture shifts in the operation and contestation of power.

As the energy transition unfolds under the dictates of fossil capital, and many previously peripheral places such as islands become both 'sustainable-development laboratories' and sites of energy extraction and struggle, how are class relations and conflicts over the appropriation of energy surpluses (re)surfacing and being (re)interpreted and (re)expressed in this moment? How can we trace and position struggles over island time-space, land and resources into broader contexts of historical global capitalist relations?

I focus on four islands, two in northern European countries transitioning from oil-based economies (Scotland and Norway) and two in southern European countries emerging from post-crisis situations (Spain and Greece). Drawing on eco-Marxist theories of metabolism, I use a 'relational comparison' framework, which focuses on spatio-historical specifications, interconnections and mutually constitutive processes, and root this in a dialectical and historical-geographical materialist understanding of energy systems. I use desk-based exploratory research, interviewing and storytelling, and critical ethnographic techniques.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1916667 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 30/03/2021 Steven James Harry