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Energy Cultures and Practices: Special Issue of Nature + Culture

The below is a special guest post written by Ana Horta, special issue editor of Nature + Culture Volume 9, Issue 2. The story of this special issue is the beginning of the story of the Energy & Society Network.



Four years ago a few members of the European Sociological Association (ESA) and the International Sociological Association (ISA) launched the idea of organizing a group of researchers interested in energy issues.


In the following year, in a very large auditorium of the ESA conference in Geneva, a small group of participants in the Research Network on Environment and Society gathered in a late afternoon and decided to organize a tiny workshop. This workshop, to be hosted by the University of Lisbon in 2012, aimed at discussing the state-of-the-art research in social aspects of energy issues. The workshop also intended to promote cooperation among researchers in this field.


The number of abstracts submitted to the workshop far exceeded the organizers’ expectations. The workshop turned into a conference. The conference became the Midterm Conference of the ESA Research Network on Environment and Society, in cooperation with the ISA Research Committee on Environment and Society.


The conference debated where can the social sciences draw inspiration, following the brilliant keynote speech of Harold Wilhite. The participants, coming from twenty three countries, were highly motivated, and some themes emerged from their presentations as major topics of the research currently being carried out in this field: social practices and cultural issues related to energy consumption; governance and participation; public acceptance; new forms of energy production; transition to sustainable energy systems; fuel poverty and social justice. How to push forward the role of the social sciences in guiding and reshaping energy policy making was also discussed, as highlighted by Tim O’Riordan in his insightful summary of the conference.


In the meeting of the conference organizing committee, one of the Editors of Nature + Culture, Matthias Gross, suggested the proposal of a special issue with some of the papers presented. The topic chosen for this special issue was “Energy cultures and practices”. By the time the process of selection and reviewing the papers came to the end, the Energy & Society Network was starting to plan its second conference.


The Second Energy & Society Conference, held in Krakow last June, had an even larger number of abstracts submitted from around the world, and hopefully other special issues may come out from it. The group is already planning its third conference.


It was very fortunate that the title of the journal where the Energy & Society Network published its first produce is Nature + Culture. Indeed, energy issues, either considered from production to consumption processes, or viewed as relations between human and non-human elements, are all about nature and culture.





Ana Horta is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, with a grant from the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation.