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Conference 2018




Petrocultures 2018: Transitions took place between 29 August-1st September 2018.

Thanks to all who attended.


Detailed abstracts available to download on the button above. 

An International, Multi-Disciplinary Conference on Oil Cultures and Energy Humanities


The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement heralded unprecedented international consensus on the need to transition from fossil fuels within the next few decades. The uneven responses from state, corporate, and civil actors across the world clearly signify the challenges – and opportunities – that lie ahead. On the one hand, they demonstrate the enduring power of oil and gas as the industry seeks to adapt to the post-Paris world in various ways – exploration, expansion, technical development, political and media management. On the other, the responses have inaugurated a range of efforts to break free from the ‘lock-in’ of the fossil-fuel system and realize a host of potential alternative scenarios. Any initiatives towards future ‘sustainability’, meanwhile, are contextualized by intensifying claims to energy security, sitting uneasily alongside the reality of rising global energy demand. 

Petrocultures is motivated by the core notion that the humanities and social sciences have significant input to add to both knowledge of oil and energy and the irrevocable process of transformation. The international field has grown rapidly since the inaugural conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 2012, producing scholarly and creative work across numerous platforms, disciplines, genres, and territories. While much work has been done to highlight the social and cultural significance of fossil fuels, the ecological unfeasibility of high-carbon life urgently compels us to think, imagine and realize a world ‘after oil’. The organising theme of Petrocultures 2018 is Transition. We anticipate its cultural interpretation in a variety of ways. The conference will provide an important forum for examining and extending existent framings and sitings of oil and petroculture, while also striving to consider the social, cultural, and aesthetic life of alternative forms of energy, such as wind, solar, and hydro power.

This is the first Petrocultures conference to be held outside North America. Scotland is an excellent location from which to contemplate the petrocultural and beyond. The country’s relationship with its offshore oil industry offers a rich backdrop for examining all the contradictions and controversies, opportunities and challenges oil has presented to modern petroculture and the world-ecological condition it has fostered. As a relatively late site of oil and gas extraction, Scotland has always been acutely perceptive of the inevitable ‘ends’ of oil. Much recent focus has been on the reality of decommissioning its petro-infrastructure, and the social consequences of this event. Attempts to become a leading site of renewable energy have been accompanied by bold climate policy initiatives. Illuminating parallels can be drawn, therefore, between Scotland’s experience and that of other key oil-sites, from Ireland, Canada and Norway to the Netherlands and the City of London, but also with emergent low-carbon initiatives seeking to install a culture of transition, across the continent and the globe.

Petrocultures 2018 will bring together scholars, policy-makers, industry employees, artists, and public advocacy groups from across Europe, North America, and beyond. Confirmed Speakers include:

Dominic Boyer (Professor of Anthropology and Director, CENHS, Rice University)

Sharae Deckard (School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin)

Jeff Diamanti (Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam)

Cymene Howe (Dept. of Anthropology and Director, CSWGS, Rice University)

Miranda Pennell (Artist and Filmmaker)

Renata Tyszczuk (School of Architecture, University of Sheffield)

Laura Watts (Energy & Society, Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh)

Topics this conference will explore include, but are not limited to:

  • oil / energy’s cultural imaginaries

  • transition culture / cultural registrations of energy transition and decarbonisation

  • histories / futures of transition

  • the end(s) of oil / representing petrofutures / low-carbon imaginaries

  • oil’s cultural geographies / spaces and sites of extraction, production, circulation, consumption

  • imagining and representing alternative energy: the narratives/poetics/aesthetics of wind/tidal/solar/hydro/bio-/thermal/

  • oil / energy and the anthropocene / capitalocene

  • infrastructure

  • cultural / activist interventions

  • energopower / the culture, (bio)politics, and economics of oil/energy in an age of transition

  • material / immaterial oil – financial / environmental / embodied / psychic /affective cultures of oil / energy

  • waste / plastic / lubricity

  • energy and climate – history, realism, speculation, apocalypse

  • theorising ‘renewable culture’ / cultural renewal

  • oil / energy utopias / dystopias

  • documenting / curating / archiving / modelling / philosophising / designing petroculture / transition

  • creative resources – producing energy art / theatre / literature / film

  • digital resources

  • the energy commons / energy and environmental law / justice

  • oil / energy and world-ecology

  • representing mobility

  • oil / energy and the state / industry

  • oil / energy and gender / sexuality

  • oil / energy and labour / work in transition / energy and social reproduction

  • community responses / creative initiatives to energy transition

  • UK / European / Scottish histories / registrations of petroculture

Organising Committee: Dr Graeme Macdonald (University of Warwick); Professor Janet Stewart (Durham University); Dr Rhys Williams (University of Glasgow)

University of Glasgow
Aug 29 - Sep 1
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