Royal Roads University


Phillip Vannini is Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography (www.publicethnography.net) and Professor in the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada. He is author/editor of nine books, including Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada’s West Coast and the Cultures of Alternative Mobilities: Routes Less Travelled.

The mobilities of energy

According to key proponents of the mobility turn, the concept of mobility is inclusive of corporeal, semiotic, financial, and material movement patterns. By ‘material movement,’ researchers have hitherto mostly intended the circulation of commodities and their chain-like geographies. More limited attention has been captured by materials even more fundamental than consumer items to the functioning of modern society and human life in general: energy and fuels. In a global context marked by growing insecurities and rising concerns over the existing stock of energy, oil, and natural gases, as well as over the environmental consequences of increased use of energy and fuels to feed economic development and sustain population growth, the mobilities of these unique materials present themselves as a subject deserving close scrutiny. The objective of the paper is to begin to conceptualize the mobilities of energy and fuels and in particular to examine how these are incorporated within people’s everyday bodily mobility practices and experiences of place.

The research we draw upon is an ethnographic study in progress which is designed to investigate the lifestyles of people living off-grid. The fieldwork makes use of in-depth, qualitative interviews, visits to off-grid dwellings and communities, as well as direct participation in the off-grid lifestyle.