Kernfach: Wirtschafts- und Sozial­geschichte

Im Fokus

International Workshop

"Electrifying the World: Towards a Global History of Light and Power”

26-27 March 2018

New Orleans, Courtyard Marriot Downtown/Iberville

With the looming threat of climate change and scarcity of resources energy issues have attracted increasing attention in recent years. Policies for securing sufficient energy supply differ widely – from notions of a “green energy transition” to the construction of new nuclear power stations or efforts to exploit (unconventional) fossil fuels. While in the Global North, many countries aim to reduce emissions and achieve more sustainable lifestyles (at least in theory), energy consumption in the Global South – far below the global average and still often dominated by biomass – is expanding rapidly to reach higher standards of living. In both these efforts, electricity production – as a main transformer of primary energy sources as well as linchpin and symbol of modern society – occupies center stage. Historical research has explored in detail how electricity contributed to the shaping of new (post)industrial lifestyles, focusing on the emergence (and power-dynamics) of large sociotechnical systems as well as its effects on everyday life and its interrelation with the environment. However, most of this research has centered on Western societies and – to a lesser extent – the former Eastern Bloc. There is very little known about the history of electricity in the non-Western regions of the world. Transnational perspectives are rare as well – and often concentrate on global energy supply chains for Western societies.

The international workshop “Electrifying the World” aims to broaden this restricted view. By bringing together an interdisciplinary group of international scholars, the workshop aims to take the first step towards a truly global history of light and power. The workshop will consider such topics as theories and approaches to the global history of electrification, global networks and agents of transfer, global electrification and the environment, the intersection of ethnicity, race, class, and gender in global electrification, resistance to electrification, and electricity and (post)colonialism.