Orkney Islands

Power at the Edge: Energy Politics and the Periphery

10:30am - 5:00pm / Thursday 29th November 2018 / Venue: Arthur West Room Abercromby SQ (south)
Type: Workshop / Category: Department
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Thursday 29 November (10.30am - 5pm) - Friday 30 November (9.30am - 1pm)

The Orkney Islands have been a site of renewable energy experimentation and testing since wind turbines were installed in the early 1950s; Dounreay, on the north Caithness coast of Scotland, was chosen by the UK Atomic Energy Authority as a site to develop early nuclear reactors; and the Shetland Islands have been transformed by their proximity to the North Sea Oil fields. Stormy Bank in the Orkneys and Mullwharchar in the Galloway Hills were considered as sites for nuclear waste storage in the 1970s and 80s.

These places are all on the periphery of the British Isles, and have been transformed in different ways by (variously) the presences, promises, and threats, of energy technologies, policies, and infrastructures. How has remoteness contributed to their development as potential and actual energy landscapes, and the development of energy history more broadly? How do energy geographies relate to energy politics? Does distance from (political) power aid or hinder the generation of (energetic) power? What traits and tropes emerge in discussions of energy in these places, and how were forms of activism or protest distinctive? In what ways do notions of landscape, community, and identity intersect on the edge? Our examples are all Scottish, and we will consider the historical prevalence and particularity of Scottish energy developments. But this does not preclude contributions that address peripheral places in England, Wales, Ireland, and their islands.

This workshop, organised by the Centre for Environmental Humanities (Bristol) and the Centre for the Humanities and Social Sciences of Health, Medicine and Technology (Liverpool), brings together researchers exploring aspects of energy, politics, and geography to probe the relationship between remoteness and power (energetic and political) in Britain. It recognises a recent rise in interest in these issues by scholars of history, literature, geography, and policy, but also identifies significant gaps in the scholarship that are there to fill. The workshop aims to facilitate conversations between and across disciplines, to develop conceptual thinking around remoteness and energy, share current research, and stimulate new work and future collaborations between participants. Click here to download the full workshop programme.