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Access to modern energy is seen as fundamental to reducing poverty, and improving education, livelihoods and health across the global South. Yet in the context of climate change and the UN’s sustainable development goals the question of what kind of energy is appropriate for whom has become more important than ever. Meanwhile, the quest for new reserves of fossil fuels and attempts to increase the use of alternative energy is transforming relationships between the global south and the global north.


This 10 week course approaches the study of energy, fuel and electricity in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the Pacific as the study of social, cultural and political change. Readings and classroom activities explore both the role of energy in post-colonial projects of nationalist modernisation and the place of energy in contemporary projects of socio-economic development. You will explore the social and cultural politics of oil, coal, hydro electricity, wind and solar. You will shift focus between big infrastructure projects, like dams and coal plants, designed to generate electricity for people living on the grid to small, decentralised infrastructures projects designed for those living off the grid.

The course will introduce you to perspectives on energy from anthropology, politics, sociology and geography, and to studies of low carbon energy transitions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The course is built around weekly case studies drawn from diverse global contexts and focused on specific examples. We aim to utilise a variety of research-led teaching and learning techniques, applying critical pedagogical approaches and building key skills to apply innovative research methods. The course will be of particular interest to those interested in international development, social anthropology, politics and international relations, sociology, human geography as well as area studies, economics and law.


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Week 1: Electricity and Development

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Week 2: SDGs and Global Energy Governance

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Week 3: Energy, Justice and Inequality

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Week 4: Power, Modernity and the Grid

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Week 5: Electric Life

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Week 6: Oil and Extractive Geopolitics

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Week 7: Hydro-electric Infrastructures

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Week 8: The Wind Revolution

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Week 9: Capitalising on the Sun

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Week 10: Green Capitalism and Energy Futures