Publications

Carbon capital: The lexicon and allegories of US hydrocarbon finance

Sean Field

Economy and Society, 2002.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with energy financiers in Houston, Texas, this paper explores how experts use a lexicon of models and metrics to conceptualize and construct allegories about future hydrocarbon projects and companies.

Contentious connections: infrastructure, dignity, and collective life in Accra, Ghana

Pauline Destrée

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Volume 28, Issue 1

Through the ‘electricity stories’ circulated by tenants, I chart how the moral economy of infrastructure in a context of collective precarity redistributes marginalization and freedom in ways that always exceed political rationales of energy reforms and policies.

Elite energy transitions: Leaders and experts promoting renewable energy futures in Norway

Anna Rauter

Energy Research & Social Science Volume 88, June 2022

While the dominant literature suggests that elites resist societal changes, this research highlights that energy elites are instrumental in the promotion of energy transitions. The findings in this article are based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in energy companies based in Oslo, Norway, and analysed using anthropological perspectives.

Energy and Ethics? Special Issue of the JRAI

Edited by Mette M. High And Jessica M. Smith

Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 25, Issue S1 (March 2019)

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.

Exploring the Anthropology of Energy: Ethnography, Energy and Ethics

Edited by Mette M. High and Jessica M. Smith

Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 30, Pages 1-116 (August 2017)

This Special Issue explores the anthropology of energy by highlighting the unique contributions an ethnographic perspective offers to understanding energy and ethics. We propose the term energy ethics to capture the ways in which people understand and ethically evaluate energy.

Cover Image for Power and precariousness in the expert hierarchies of the US hydrocarbon industry.

Power and precariousness in the expert hierarchies of the US hydrocarbon industry

Sean Field

Critique of Anthropology. 2021;41(3):303-319.

Drawing on ethnographic research in Houston, Texas, I explore how oil and gas experts negotiate social power and precariousness within the US hydrocarbon sector. In an industry long associated with corporate power, the careers of experts are precariously balanced on rising and falling hydrocarbon prices. This makes the social power these experts wield as fluid […]

Risk and responsibility: Private equity financiers and the US shale revolution

Sean Field

Economic Anthropology 9(1), published online 17 August 2021

Drawing on ethnographic research in Houston, Texas, I explore how private equity financiers in the US hydrocarbon industry are empowered to define and take financial risks on our collective behalf. The US shale revolution could not have unfolded without the financial risk-taking activities of private equity financiers who channeled billions of dollars into US unconventional […]

The Absent Presence of the State in Large-Scale Resource Extraction Projects

Edited by Nick Bainton and Emilka Skrzypek

Asia-Pacific Environment Monographs

Standing on the broken ground of resource extraction settings, the state is sometimes like a chimera: its appearance and intentions are misleading and, for some actors, it is unknowable and incomprehensible. It may be easily mistaken for someone or something else, like a mining company, for example.

Current Economy Book Cover

The Current Economy: Electricity Markets and Techno-Economics

Canay Özden-Schilling

Stanford University Press, 2021

. The Current Economy is an ethnography of electricity markets in the United States that shows the heterogenous and technologically inflected nature of economic expertise today. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among market data analysts, electric grid engineers, and citizen activists, this book provides a deep dive into the convoluted economy of electricity and its reverberations throughout daily life.

The Justice Dimensions of Extracting Energy Transition Metals from the Pacific

Emilka Skrzypek, Nicholas Bainton, John Burton, Eléonore Lèbre

This report uses results from the Just Transitions and the Pacific project to address the central dilemmas of the ‘energy transition-extractives nexus’, namely: as energy transitions drive global demand for ETMs, how do we account for and mitigate justice issues that arise from intensified pressure to extract in specific regions, like the Pacific for example?

The politics of dispossession and compensation in the eastern Indian coal belt

Itay Noy

Critique of Anthropology. February 2022.

Drawing on fieldwork in an Adivasi (tribal) village adjacent to an opencast coal mine in Jharkhand, India, this article seeks to illustrate how, in a predominantly precarious labour environment, the possibility of formal employment as compensation for expropriated land, and the ways in which such employment enables class mobility, can play a salient role in shaping local political dynamics around dispossession.

Utopias of Oil: Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Ambition in the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry

Mette M. High

Cultural Anthropology 37(4)

At a time of a “private equity oil rush,” this essay explores how oil industry entrepreneurs with ambitions of setting up their own oil-production companies are encouraged to “dream big”—yet are ultimately disciplined and let down—by private equity finance in the state of Colorado in the United States. Motivated by a desire to “do oil differently,” these start-ups articulate utopian visions that draw on inequalities in extractive economies to promote an ethos of care and inclusion.