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Becoming-poor, becoming-animal, becoming-plant…becoming-imperceptible: An ethnographic study of everyday energy assemblages in transition

Dal Gobbo, Alice 2018. Becoming-poor, becoming-animal, becoming-plant…becoming-imperceptible: An ethnographic study of everyday energy assemblages in transition. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The 2008 financial crisis has meant for the West a much wider social, political and economic questioning of its underpinnings. This delicate contingency combines with an increasingly evident ecologic crisis, indissolubly related to the capitalist, post-industrial, consumer economy that cracked in 2008. As the latter is proving unsustainable on all these levels, there is space for challenging this economic system and its underpinnings: development, industrialism and infinite growth (via consumption). Governments are putting in place measures that aim at environmental change mitigation, but with too little effect. With my study, I investigate the potentiality of the everyday as a site of ecological resistance, difference and creation. As a way of pursuing this, I designed a multimodal and multimedia participant observation study, focusing on energy use in everyday life. The locale is a town in the North-East of Italy, Vittorio Veneto, an interesting example of a formerly affluent area strongly hit by the recession. As a contribution to existent literature in this field, I draw and expand upon recent reflections that seek to go beyond the limitations of constructionism as the guiding approach to critical qualitative social sciences investigations. This “post-qualitative” literature calls for more attention to the ways in which language and discourses are co-emerging with, and co-constitutive of, the material, affective and non-representational qualities of experience. In line with this, I give special attention to the desiring and unconscious dimensions of energy use and everyday life more generally. Nonetheless, these are not conceptualised as subjective, interior or personal – but rather as trans-human flows that traverse and shape the social world. In this sense, focussing on desire is also a way to address the political and power-ridden aspects of energy use, little addressed in current research. Inspired above all by the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (also with Félix Guattari), I look at the ways in which (collective) desire shapes the energy “assemblages” that we live through in ordinary life. If the dominant (libidinal) economy gears towards hyper-consumption and intensive energy practices, are molecular desires being mobilised that evade such hegemony? To what extent are they capable of a radical creation of more ecologically sensitive, life affirmative, assemblages? By making treasure of the different affordances of multi-media representation of the field, in my thesis I map contemporary everyday energy assemblages as they are territorialised and deterritorialised along lines of (ecological) becoming. I bring attention not only to the chances, but also to the risks and contradictions of emerging “lines of flight” from our unsustainable economy. This critical reflection is also applied to the theory informing my own study and its potential pitfalls. Finally, I reflect on the politics and ethics of social sciences in participating to draw lines of transitions towards sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 December 2018
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2020 02:45

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