We are excited to announce the publication of a Special Issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, entitled “Energy and Ethics?”, edited by Mette M. High and Jessica M. Smith. In the Special Issue, we examine how growing anthropological research on energy provides critical explorations into the cross-cultural ways in which people perceive and use this fundamental resource. We argue that two dominant frameworks animate that literature: a critique of corporate and state power, and advocacy for energy transitions to less carbon-intensive futures. These frameworks have narrowed the ethical questions and perspectives that the discipline has considered in relation to energy. This is because they are animated by judgements that can implicitly shape research agendas or sometimes result in strong accusations that obscure how our interlocutors themselves may consider the rightness and wrongness of energy resources and the societal infrastructures of which they form a part. We propose a more capacious approach to studying energy ethics that opens up energy dilemmas to ethnographic inquiry. As such, we show how energy dilemmas constitute important sites for the generation of anthropological knowledge, encouraging more insightful and inclusive discussions of the place of energy in human and more-than-human lives.

The Introduction, entitled “The ethical constitution of energy dilemmas”, and Mette M. High’s single-authored article, entitled “Projects of Devotion: Energy exploration and moral ambition in the cosmoeconomy of oil and gas in the Western United States”, are Open Access and available to all for download.