Call for Proposals
Petrocultures 2024: Perth
November 2024, Precise Dates TBA
WITH PETROCULTURES 2024, THE BIENNIAL CONFERENCE SERIES COMES FOR THE FIRST TIME TO THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE.
THEME: “CONTESTED ENERGY FUTURES”
This conference explores distances, struggles, visions, dynamics, flows, regulations, and resistances in the reproduction of petrocultures. The conference provides a platform for voices of the South—from Western Australia, the country’s eastern States, the Indian Ocean Rim Region and beyond—to discuss energy futures, their problematic pasts, and what inclusive and just trajectories toward transitions to renewables may look like. This platform will allow us to merge scholarly contestations of possible and desirable energy futures with imaginative interventions from the creative arts, community activists, and First Nations’ yarns to prefigure more equitable and liveable energy outlooks.
Petrocultures 2024: PERTH
Petrocultures 2024/SOUTH will be held in Western Australia (WA) – a State where carbon emissions continue to rise and extractive industries fuse with places and peoples, affect non-human and human rights, and repeatedly disrupt and displace communities, culture, languages, and heritage.
PETROCULTURES AND ANTIPODEAN PLACES
Perth, WA’s capital (population of 2,200,000 in the metro area, 2023), is for some, a very comfortable place to live, deriving wealth from iron ore and fossil fuels. It is routinely claimed to be the world’s most isolated capital city. Yet, it is also a vital gateway to Southeast Asia, given its location on the Indian Ocean Rim – geographically part of the southern hemisphere but economically or politically at the margins of “the West”. Perth, like the rest of Western Australia, and much of the nation, is the product of colonial history, implicated in dispossession and marginalisation of First Nations peoples. Today, the city is home to major players in energy and resources industries and their State-wide cultural and environmental impacts, wrapped in narratives of green, blue, and grey energy transitions.
Major sources of oil in WA were first developed in 1953 and the first commercial quantities of natural gas sourced in 1966. Since then, the State has become so dependent on the fossil fuel sector (including natural gas) that shifts to a more sustainable and less destructive energy culture have been slow and often resisted. In addition, the growth of a ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ (FIFO) employment culture has significantly altered communities in the State’s north while attracting large numbers of workers to hitherto unheard-of levels of income. Coal is still mined in all of Australia’s States, with the largest export docks in Queensland and New South Wales. Yet, the eastern States have taken the lead over WA in decentralising renewable energy structures. In Indian Ocean Rim countries, demand for coal, oil, and gas has been growing exponentially, with the two former largest oil producers – Indonesia and Malaysia, out of an oil history going back to the late 19th century – now becoming net importers. Just energy futures are contested there too, albeit based on different legacies and distinct place-based, culturally meaningful visions for dignified living.
PETROCULTURES FROM A DISTANCE
Oil is virtually synonymous with the overcoming of distance. Historically speaking, 20th century globalisation is coextensive with the expansion in production and consumption of carbon-based energy. The development of a global transport network, fuelled by oil, has enabled geographically distant societies to engage in a degree and intensity of cooperation and exchange—and conflict—unimaginable in pre-industrial times. In the context of this history, we want to explore several questions relevant to the main theme of ‘Contesting Energy Futures’, through the lens of distance.
- How does a move away from oil affect the scope for critical interrogation of petrocultures from a distance?
- What measures might be taken to ensure that a retreat from oil does not see a retreat of power—but also of petrocultures criticism and energy futures scholarship—to historically privileged centres in the geo-political (and geo-critical) landscape?
- What role may insights from the historically marginalised and dispossessed play in the construction of non-fossil fuel, just energy futures, and what are the most appropriate and effective ways to make these insights count?
- How do global South responses and other voices from the margin (or marginality, following bell hooks, as a site of resistance and radical possibility) allow us to recentre and reshape inclusive visions for our futures?
PETROCULTURES 2024/SOUTH AT CURTIN UNIVERSITY
The Petrocultures 2024/SOUTH host institution will be Curtin University, at the Bentley campus in Perth. In addition to its Kalgoorlie campus (WA School of Mines, 600 km east of Perth), Curtin also has five Global Campuses - in Miri (Malaysia), Singapore, Dubai, Moka (Mauritius), and Colombo (Sri Lanka). Curtin’s Energy Humanities Initiative will be largely responsible for the organisation, joined up with colleagues from the eastern States, and with Curtin’s Institute for Energy Transition as the primary on-campus sponsor. Across Australia and in the region, there is growing interest in (and urgent need for) the humanities, the social sciences, and the creative arts to engage in critical and imaginative scholarship and praxis. These are vital to address what the 2021 Australian Energy Transition Research Plan identifies as “a particularly critical and urgent gap in energy research in the humanities, arts and social sciences disciplines” (p.25). This is an ideal and overdue space for the energy and environmental humanities!
Please stay tuned for details on the precise date in (the first half of) November 2024 and the call for abstracts before Christmas this year.
The Petrocultures 24 Perth organizational team is led by Petra Tschakert (Curtin University, School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry).