CfP RGS-IBG 2019: Future Research Agendas for Energy Geographies of Global South

Call for papers, RGS – IBG annual conference, London, 28-30 August 2019

Future Research Agendas for Energy Geographies of Global South
Sponsored by: Energy Geographies Research Group (EnGRG)

Session conveners: Ankit Kumar (TU/e), Jonathan Balls (Melbourne University), Britta Turner (Durham University)

Geographers have been at the forefront of researching various aspects of energy in the global South. Geographical work has focused on energy poverty and justice (Castán Broto et al., 2018), energy transitions and renewable energy (Power et al., 2016), land grabbing and social oppression linked to large-scale energy investments (Finley-brook and Thomas, 2011), extractive industries (Kirshner and Power, 2015) and cultural aspects of new lighting technologies (Kumar, 2015). There is a host of work on urban energy inequalities (Castán Broto, Salazar and Adams, 2014; Silver, 2014) and a smaller body of work on access to energy (Balls, 2016; Kumar et al., 2019; Turner, 2019) focusing on the role of non-state actors in developing new markets for renewable technologies. Geographers have provided evidence of how economic, political, social, spatial, and technical dynamics shape, enable, and constrain energy systems, at various scales.
Developments in energy technology and digitisation are promising radical new opportunities to enable energy transitions and to deliver energy access to the world’s poorest. At the same time, new technologies and systems, installed in the last decades, are falling into ruins and taking new lives as different types of wastes. In addition, decentralised energy systems touted to bring equity, democracy, and participation have not always done so (Kumar et al., 2019; Balls and Fischer, 2019). In the on-going rush to renewables, inadequate research attention to waste, extraction, democracy, and equity is increasingly becoming clear. Geographers and geographical theory are well placed to respond to these issues.
On the other hand, energy geographies of developing areas have drawn only sparingly upon promising emerging theories, including assemblage theory, practice theory among others. Established theoretical approaches, notably postcolonial theory and critical development studies, otherwise employed productively to geographies of the global South, have been largely missing from energy geographies. In studying developments in energy systems in the developing world, there is great potential for critical geographical enquiry to engage more extensively with a broader range of theoretical frameworks. Indeed, it is striking how conceptual symmetries in energy geographies of the global South and global North have been little explored to date.
This session will ask what future geographical research agendas on energy geographies in the global South are emerging and required. For example, but not limited to, the following areas:
  • ·         The waste lives and extraction economies of low-carbon energy technologies and systems
  • ·         Digitalisation, Ai, blockchain and other ‘smart technologies’ and their implications for access and exclusion
  • ·         Emerging land, equity, and democracy scenarios, particularly in decentralised systems
  • ·         Prosumer in the global South, energy entrepreneurs, community, and rural financial profiting from energy projects and systems
  • ·         Building upon and advance emerging theoretical approaches, such as assemblage theory, and more established ones like the postcolonial theory
  • ·         Energy geographies beyond the urban global South

Please email abstracts of 250 words to Ankit Kumar (, Jonathan Balls ( or Britta Turner ( by 10 February 2019. We will inform the selected session participants by 13 February 2019.
Baker, L., Newell, P. and Phillips, J. (2014) ‘The Political Economy of Energy Transitions: The Case of South Africa’, New Political Economy, (August 2014), pp. 1–28. doi: 10.1080/13563467.2013.849674.
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. Available at:
Balls, J. and Fischer, H. (2019) 'Electricity-centered clientelism and the contradictions of private solar micro-grids in India' Annals of the Association of American Geographers.
Castán Broto, V. et al. (2018) ‘Energy justice and sustainability transitions in Mozambique’, Applied Energy. Elsevier, 228(December 2017), pp. 645–655. doi: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.06.057.
Castán Broto, V., Salazar, D. and Adams, K. (2014) ‘Communities and urban energy landscapes in Maputo, Mozambique’, People, Place and Policy Online, 8(3), pp. 192–207. doi: 10.3351/ppp.0008.0003.0005.
Cupples, J. (2011) ‘Shifting Networks of Power in Nicaragua: Relational Materialisms in the Consumption of Privatized Electricity’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101(March 2015), pp. 939–948. doi: 10.1080/00045608.2011.569654.
Finley-brook, M. and Thomas, C. (2011) ‘Renewable Energy and Human Rights Violations: Illustrative Cases from Indigenous Territories in Panama’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101(March 2015), pp. 863–872. doi: 10.1080/00045608.2011.568873.
Kirshner, J. and Power, M. (2015) ‘Mining and extractive urbanism: Postdevelopment in a mozambican boomtown’, Geoforum, 61, pp. 67–78. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.02.019.
Kumar, A. (2015) ‘Cultures of lights’, Geoforum. Elsevier Ltd, 65, pp. 59–68. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.07.012.
Kumar, 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. Elsevier, 48(March 2018), pp. 166–176. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.10.005.
Power, M. et al. (2016) ‘The political economy of energy transitions in Mozambique and South Africa: The role of the Rising Powers’, Energy Research & Social Science. Elsevier Ltd, 17, pp. 10–19. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2016.03.007.
Silver, J. (2014) ‘Incremental infrastructures: material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra’, Urban Geography, 35(6), pp. 788–804. doi: 10.1080/02723638.2014.933605.
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), pp. 1–6. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.11.005.


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