Theme in Economics and Politics

Ritam Sengupta
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2023S, scientific seminar (SEW), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S04481


Energy Humanities in a Warming World

This course will introduce students to certain basic tenets of energy humanities. We will explore historical, anthropological, literary, and other methods of the humanities and the social sciences to understand how our lives and that of the planet are crucially implicated in energy as a concept, as an object of practice, as material basis and most crucially as an infrastructure. We will also develop a critical focus on both the essential role of energy in the development of human lives as well as the limits to which energy can be pressed in the service of humanity. The broad idea is to emphasize that there is a critical reformulation possible of the strictly technical, technocratic and/or economics-centred models of thinking energy. We will approach such reformulations through an appreciation of the political, ethical and moral stakes of the ways in which energy has been produced, distributed and consumed around the world over at least the last couple of centuries. In pursuing this line of reading and thinking, attention will be paid to both globally disparate modes of infrastructural development as well as regional specifics of infrastructural access, especially in the Global South.

More specifically, we will learn why and how the world was set on a path of energy-intensive development through the transition to fossil fuels like coal and oil. We will then try to understand how the Global South (the developing world) is located vis-à-vis both the need to pursue energy-intensive growth as well as the constraints of such models of growth for these regions as well as for the wider world. After this we will try to understand how intermediary forms of energy distribution like electricity, are made operational through localized acts of tinkering and how in turn electricity becomes mediated by particular kinds of local politics of representation and appropriation in different parts of the world. Finally, we will briefly study the politics of renewable energy, like that of solar energy, as it is posed as a critical alternative in the present context.

Examination Modalities

Evaluation will be partly through estimating the nature of classroom participation and mostly through a final paper of 3500 words (to be determined by further discussion) at the end of the course.


Students from other departments or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities.


Key Words

energy, humanites, history, anthropology, critique, infrastructure


21 March 2023, 09:15–14:15 KUG Lecture Room PSK 149
22 March 2023, 09:15–12:45 CDS Lecture Room
08 May 2023, 13:00–17:00 CDS Lecture Room
09 May 2023, 09:15–14:15 KUG Lecture Room PSK 149
12 May 2023, 09:15–14:15 CDS Lecture Room

Course Enrolment

From 25 February 2023, 10:00 to 14 March 2023, 23:55
Via online registration

Co-registration: not possible

Attending individual courses: not possible