Powering the Planet – Why the World Needs Anthropologists

Dr Valentina Dedi

Access for Women in Energy (AccessWIE) participated at the Fifth Edition of the annual symposium “Why the World Needs Anthropologists” which took place on 28-29 October 2017 in Durham. The event was organised and hosted by Durham University, which, via its Energy Institute, has a history of researching sustainable energy and energy systems’ integration.

Social scientists, scientists, engineers, economists, students, businesses, community groups and energy sector professionals from all over the world attended the event. The gathering was sponsored by the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), Durham Energy Institute, Institute of Advanced Study and Department of Anthropology at Durham University.

AccessWIE engaged with enthusiasts from different energy background at the Energy Hotspot exhibition area. Our group showcased the blend of social science with energy, highlighting the vital role of women in the energy industry, discussing topical energy issues, inspiring graduates and young professionals, sharing the group’s experience, and giving career advice in the industry.

AccessWIE Management Committee engaging with participants at the Energy Hotspot

‘Powering the Planet’ explored how energy professionals and anthropologists can cooperate to design and deploy energy innovations that alter the world for the better. The topics discussed included, among others: assessment of the energy system; why the world needs anthropologists for a sustainable energy transition; and the different ways anthropologists, economists and engineers approach the energy world and how these differences can be reconciled.

The event was officially opened by Sandra Bell, Member of Durham Energy Institute Advisory Board; Maggie Bosanquest, Low Carbon Economic Development Manager for Durham County Council; and conveyors of EASA Applied Anthropology Network.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Benj Sykes, UK Country Manager and Head of Programme Asset Management at DONG Energy’s Offshore Wind Power, gave a presentation on transforming people, places and power;
  • Sophie Bouly de Lesdain, Expert Researcher at Electricité de France (EDF), discussed whether anthropology can contribute to the development of solar energy;
  • Tanja Winther, Associate Professor at Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo, examined the role of anthropologists in the search for solutions to the energy dilemma; and
  • Veronica Strang, Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University, covered empowering infrastructures: water, steel and stone.


Mining Tour

At the end of the event, AccessWIE participated in the walking mining tour that featured the hidden history of Durham as the center of what was once the largest coalfield in England.

Mining Tour

Read the key highlights of the event >

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