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Energy In Society (EIS)

The Energy In Society interdisciplinary working group (formerly known as the Beyond Petrocultures working group) seeks to build on its successful collaboration with the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) during the 2016-2017 academic year. Last year we organized a speaker series and conducted working group sessions around the topics of the history of coal in Alberta, Indigenous rights and extractive industry in the Americas, and environmental management in the Yukon. This year, we aim to grow our working group by building links with fellow faculty members and graduate students at the University of Calgary and to showcase the research being done here on energy transitions to an international audience.

The Energy In Society (EIS) research group was formed by four scholars in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary: Drs. Petra Dolata, Sabrina Perić, Roberta Rice and Saulesh Yessenova. We were interested in creating a community of energy scholars in the humanities and social sciences on campus as well as to reach out to engineers, natural scientists, health researchers and many others who are actively engaged in the energy field. With the support of the CIH, we have begun to engage practitioners and scholars of a variety of energy processes and industries and wish to chart a new agenda for energy research through E/S at the University of Calgary.

In our contemporary world, especially in an Alberta currently defined by oil bust, many people are focused on finding solutions to a fossil-fuel dependent society. As a society, we are focused on the next big transition away from a hydrocarbon-dominated economy. However, in order to understand both the nature of today’s energy challenges, as well as socially acceptable solutions, we need to uncover the history and politics of certain assumptions about energy. To this end we have put together an Energy In Society research agenda:

• If we want to address our energy futures, we need to know about our energy pasts, because historical decisions and narratives create the societal criteria of the present
• We need to understand the dynamics of energy politics, not only in Canada, but elsewhere in the world. This includes addressing dominant and suppressed energy discourses as well as examining and giving voice to all actors involved—this includes the State, Indigenous peoples, corporate actors and marginalized groups
• Scholars, policy makers and the general public have focused too much on singular commodities—such as oil and coal. We need to understand that all energy systems are intertwined, and that energy pathways and transitions need to be understood holistically. Coal, oil, wind, solar and nuclear energy (amongst others) systems will also interact with one another.
• Research on our energy futures and solutions also entails cooperation across disciplinary lines. We know therefore that energy research should always be interdisciplinary.
• Lastly, while we focus on energy and our energy future, we understand that energy is always tied to and embedded within other social practices.


Dr. Petra Dolata, CRC History of Energy, Associate Professor, Department of History (
Dr. Sabrina Perić, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archeology (
Dr. Roberta Rice, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science (
Dr. Saulesh Yessenova, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archeology (

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