- Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene by Dominic Boyer, and: Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene by Cymene Howe, and: Renewing Destruction: Wind Energy, Conflict and Resistance in a Latin American Context by Alexander Dunlap
The promotion and development of wind energy is often framed as a solution to a wide range of urgent, contemporary challenges, ranging from economic growth and national development to mitigating global climate change and social inequality. Expansion of wind parks often takes place in rural areas where it is understood to result in lower environmental costs and improvement of social conditions. However, these patterns of wind energy development are increasingly contested as they transform rural landscapes and reshape livelihoods. This raises questions not only about who bears the burden of expanding and changing energy systems, but also the capacity of different energy technologies and infrastructural arrangements to reproduce social power and shape political and economic outcomes.
The three works discussed in this review all delve into these questions by examining wind power in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico, a region that has seen some of the most ambitious plans for massive and concentrated wind power development anywhere in the world over the last decade—plans that have generated new conflicts and counter-movements. Wind and Power in the Anthropocene by Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer is a duograph that consists of two [End Page 347] jointly published single-authored volumes, Ecologics by Howe and Energopolitics by Boyer. The two volumes draw from a shared fieldwork experience and the same research material while elaborating distinct analysis and interests. The duograph, which shares a preface and conclusion, can be read in a playful manner and the authors encourage the reader "explore the duograph as you like, settling into the groove of one narrative or zigzagging between them" (p. xvii). The duograph is an interesting and novel way to approach collaborative writing, which I enjoyed engaging with.
In Energopolitics, Dominic Boyer leverages the case of Mexican wind power to theorize the relationship between energy and power in the context of the Anthropocene. Energopolitics consists of two components: an ethnography of wind power in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and a conceptual framework for an anthropological theory of political power in the Anthropocene. Together the two components illustrate how energy and fuel shape political power, in what Boyer and Howe refer to as aeolian politics. Energopolitics elegantly brings together political theory and ethnography. Particularly exciting is Boyer's concept of energopower, where he draws inspiration from Timothy Mitchell and Hermann Scheer to address some of the inattentiveness of Marxist and Foucauldian theory to the "energo-material contributions of fuel and electricity to political power" (p.5).
However, Energopolitics is more than just political theory. Boyer stresses the importance of including the analytic work of history and ethnography when trying to understand the politics of wind power. The aeolian politics of southern Mexico, argues Boyer, include a deep history of colonial resource extraction, contested history of land tenure, the complex caciquismo (boss politics) specific to that region. They include clientelist networks and corporatist machinations of the Mexican political parties, as well as diverse opposition movements. There are also the historical tensions between Mexico City and Oaxaca City, between Oaxaca City and the Isthmus...