Energy Humanities

Gene Daniels, fotografía para Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project, 1972-1977

The project “Energy humanities. Energy and sociocultural imaginaries between the industrial revolutions and the ecosocial crisis” ((PID2020-113272RA-I00, ENERGEHUM) will generate a space for study and research that focuses on the discussion of the role played by the imaginaries of energy during industrial modernity in light of the climate emergency and its challenges. And it will do so by contemplating its double dimension as a physical reality and as a cultural construction, in a period that spans the last two centuries, between the origin of industrialism and the current ecosocial crisis. The research project will be situated in the field of energy humanities, a field of the environmental and ecological humanities that analyses both the material and symbolic importance that energy has acquired through its link with the exploitation of fossil fuels and with the productivist ideology, and that has not yet been worked on in Spain.

Specifically, the project will explore the possibilities offered by the category of socio-cultural energy imaginary for: i) review the historical trajectory of industrial society in its different manifestations, from artistic practices to scientific discourses; ii) understand the conflicts that are shaping the climate emergency as a social phenomenon in dispute and iii) detect emerging trends in eco-social transition and analyze the feasibility or interest of some of these proposals. This research task, marked by a triple temporal sensibility (past, present and future), will be developed by attending to two deeply interrelated dimensions of the socio-cultural imaginary: its aesthetic dimension and its socio-political dimension, that cross and articulate each other in a process of co-evolution, and whose understanding requires a complex dialogue of knowledge.

For this reason, the methodology will be transdisciplinary in nature, promoting an approach to the question of energy from various points of view, which will bring into dialogue the contributions of the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The research and work teams will include artists, art historians, philologists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers and physicists. The specific objectives of the project will articulate the critique of the concept of energy and of the productivist imaginaries with the proposal of alternatives to re-imagine culture (understood in a double sense, as a way of life and as a cosmovision) from a post-fossilist, post-anthropocentric, post-speciesist, feminist and egalitarian perspective. And they will materialize in a constellation of very diverse research results. Among them, some will have a more orthodox profile, such as the reading of doctoral theses, the publication of a whole series of unpublished academic materials in journals and publishers of impact, or the holding of international seminars and conferences. But it will also give rise to other more heterodox materials, such as an exhibition at a highly prestigious cultural institution (the MACBA in Barcelona), the systematization of a documentary archive of high historiographic value or the creation of pedagogical resources for use in secondary education.

Finally, the profiles of the researchers involved, as well as the Participating Observer Entities, ensure that the project, in addition to having a high academic impact, will also demonstrate a high social impact.

Key concepts: Energy, cultural imaginaries, environmental humanities, energy humanities, contemporary art, Industrial revolution, fossil fuels, climate change, ecosocial crisis and transition.