In 2006, Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project to construct the world’s first “zero-carbon” city: Masdar City. Soon after, Masdar Institute, a renewable energy and clean technology research center founded in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, opened its doors to an international group of faculty and students. Located at the heart of the Masdar City construction site, the Institute was responsible for experimenting with new energy infrastructures. In this article, I contend with the novel instance of Masdar City trying to invent “ergos,” a new currency based on energy unit expenditure. Bringing together literature on science and technology studies and economic anthropology, I explore the paradoxes that emerge during the project and map out the stakes of this currency proposal for the actors involved. Consequently, I show how “ergos” provides us with a unique instance of “energopolitics” wherein the disciplinary and biopolitical qualities of power merge together to control both individuals and populations, resulting in a “disciplinary biopolitics” for the eco-city. I suggest that a commitment to fixing the everyday failures of the emergent technological infrastructures (as well as a reverence for an abstract higher good) eventually emerges as the endpoint of the ergos project. In this way, I provide a refreshing look on planned cities, energy infrastructures, and currency debates.


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pp. 359-379
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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