Workshop call for papers: Origins, lives and afterlives of energy transitions in the global South


23-24, January 2020, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, the Netherlands

In the last decade, a range of social scientific and philosophical work has emerged on energy transitions in the global South. There are three gaps in this literature. First, much of the literature is concerned with transitions on the level of (inter)national energy systems, while there is less attention for the political and ethical consequences these transitions would have on people’s everyday lived experiences. Second, the literature falls short of interrogating the unintended consequences of (rapidly) ramping up energy transitions and therefore only now has begun to capture issues like energy poverty, democracy, justice and waste. Third, most work on energy transitions has engaged with a limited number of theoretical approaches such as transition studies, political economy, practice theory or governmentality studies.

This workshop considers energy transitions in a broad empirical and conceptual sense. Our aim is twofold: expanding the empirical and conceptual investigations of energy transitions by considering a number of less investigated issues, and expanding the range of theoretical approaches through which to study and understand energy transitions. We are looking for theoretical and empirical contributions addressing the origins, lives and afterlives of energy transitions that deal with (but are not limited to):

  • Relevant but less explored theoretical frameworks like postcolonialism, critical development studies, assemblage theory, capability theory, etc (for example: Castán Broto et al., 2018).
  • Political visions and value judgements embedded in energy technology/system design, ethical questions that project/product designs raise (for example: Balls and Fischer, 2019; Cross, 2019b; Höffken, 2016; Pols, 2017)
  • Socio-cultural aspects (gender, class, caste) of energy access, poverty, justice, citizenship and community (for example: Kumar, 2018, 2019; Ockwell et al., 2018)
  • Humanitarian capitalism, social entrepreneurship, energy markets and financing of projects and individuals (for example: Balls, 2016; Cross, 2019a)
  • Various issues of upscaling designs, projects and ideas (for example: Kirshner et al., 2019; Turner, 2019)
  • The agency and vibrancy of devices like solar lanterns and smart meters (for example: Cross, 2013)
  • Maintenance and endurance of energy transition initiatives (for example: Kumar et al., 2019)
  • Issues of impact measurement and assessment
  • Socio-cultural impacts of failed projects
  • Issues of material waste from solar panels, extraction and industrial production
  • Global networks and material flows of energy transitions

We aim for about 30 participants for the workshop with about 15 paper presentations.

If you wish to present a paper, please send a 500 word abstract to by 15 August 2019. If you would like to participate in the discussions without presenting a paper, please send an email with your details and explaining your interest in the workshop to by 15 August 2019. We will inform the selected participants by 30 August 2019. Those selected for paper presentations are expected to submit a 3000 word paper by 30 November for discussion in the workshop. Routledge has expressed keen interest in publishing an edited volume from this workshop. Selected abstracts will form part of the full book proposal.

Funding: We have limited funds for travels for junior researchers and participants from the global South whose papers have been accepted for a presentation. Please mention your funding needs along with your abstract submission. We are also working to make remote participation possible to make the workshop more inclusive.

This workshop marks the end of a four-year project, titled ‘Developing and Implementing Smart Grids in India’. Project no. 313-99-307, which is funded under the Responsible Innovation (MVI) programme of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). More information on this project can be found on


Balls J (2016) Fluid Capitalism at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Study of the Off-Grid Solar Power Market in Uttar Pradesh, India. University of Oxford.

Balls JN and Fischer HW (2019) Electricity-Centered Clientelism and the Contradictions of Private Solar Microgrids in India. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109(2). Routledge: 465–475. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2018.1535312.

Castán Broto V, Baptista I, Kirshner J, et al. (2018) Energy justice and sustainability transitions in Mozambique. Applied Energy 228(December 2017). Elsevier: 645–655. DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.06.057.

Cross J (2013) The 100th object: Solar lighting technology and humanitarian goods. Journal of Material Culture 18(August): 367–387. DOI: 10.1177/1359183513498959.

Cross J (2019a) Selling with Prejudice : Social Enterprise and Caste at the Bottom of the Pyramid in India. 84(3): 458–479.

Cross J (2019b) The solar good : energy ethics in poor markets.: 1–20. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.13014.

Höffken JI (2016) Demystification and localization in the adoption of micro-hydro technology: Insights from India. Energy Research and Social Science 22. Elsevier Ltd: 172–182. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2016.09.002.

Kirshner J, Baker L, Smith A, et al. (2019) A regime in the making? Examining the geographies of solar PV electricity in Southern Africa. Geoforum (April). Elsevier: 0–1. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.04.013.

Kumar A (2018) Justice and politics in energy access for education, livelihoods and health: How socio-cultural processes mediate the winners and losers. Energy Research & Social Science 40(January 2017). Elsevier: 3–13. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2017.11.029.

Kumar A (2019) Beyond technical smartness: Rethinking the development and implementation of sociotechnical smart grids in India. Energy Research & Social Science 49(October 2018). Elsevier: 158–168. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.10.026.

Kumar A, Ferdous R, Luque-Ayala A, et al. (2019) Solar energy for all? Understanding the successes and shortfalls through a critical comparative assessment of Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Energy Research & Social Science 48(March 2018). Elsevier: 166–176. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.10.005.

Ockwell D, Byrne R, Hansen UE, et al. (2018) The uptake and diffusion of solar power in Africa: Socio-cultural and political insights on a rapidly emerging socio-technical transition. Energy Research and Social Science 44(May). Elsevier: 122–129. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.04.033.

Pols AJK (2017) May Stakeholders be Involved in Design Without Informed Consent? The Case of Hidden Design. Science and Engineering Ethics 23(3). Springer Netherlands: 723–742. DOI: 10.1007/s11948-016-9811-0.

Turner B (2019) Diffusion on the ground: Rethinking the logic of scale and access in off-grid solar. Energy Research and Social Science 50(November 2018): 1–6. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.11.005.