Anna Szołucha

Dr Anna Szołucha studied International Relations and Political Science in St Andrews and Toronto. She received her MA (Hons.) from the University of St Andrews, Scotland in 2009. In 2014, she defended her PhD at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Her doctoral work examined direct democracy in the Occupy movement in Ireland and the San Francisco Bay Area (Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley) in the USA. Subsequently, she received a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship and joined the ERC-Advanced Grant project on Egalitarianism at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen in Norway to explore the intersections of energy and democracy in the context of shale gas developments and renewable energy initiatives in the UK and Poland.

Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the themes of democracy, energy, natural resources and social movements. She is particularly interested in investigating the social and environmental impacts of energy developments as well as the conditions of technosocial possibility of new energy projects and the current transmutations of the “corporate state”.

Research project: The history of shale gas in Poland

At PIASt, she will investigate the history of shale gas development in Poland. The project aims to enhance our understanding of resource extraction from a non-economic point of view, bringing the human dimension to the fore. It aims to decentre the dominant assertions about the history of shale gas in Poland and thus, open the hegemonic discourses about resource extraction to critical examination by unpacking the powerful but murky metonyms of gas and showing how unconventional resources and the social conflicts that they often give rise to unsettle the invisibilities and various forms of discursive play that are at work in European energy and democratic systems.

The production of energy is related to social life, conflict and choices of many disparate actors in fundamental ways. Yet, the materiality of energy systems and the knowledge practices governing them have often been reduced to the narrow configurations of price calculations. Transformations from one source of energy to another have been alleged to automatically follow the principles of economic efficiency and technological innovation. Recent anthropological and historical work, however, has begun to challenge these assumptions and showed that energy transitions occur in response to social processes such as the inability of cotton mill owners to manage the flow of water  collectively,  which led  to the proliferation  of  steam engines powered by coal, or the historical animosity between street car companies and US city authorities, which encouraged more people to use an individual car, increasing the demand for petrol. This project investigates the unexplored history of shale gas development in Poland to show how it was determined by complex social processes, conflicts and interactions between the national and local authorities, gas and drilling companies, experts, activists as well as local communities.
The main objectives of the research are: (1) to explore the current powerful and enduring socio-technical shale gas imaginaries and histories, (2) to trace the history of shale gas in Poland in order to understand how social processes influence the dynamics and futures of resource extraction and (3) answer the question of what set us on the path to unconventional resources worldwide?

Far from the image of official, tightly-regulated and transparent technological machines, energy developments often occur in highly contentious contexts not only because new projects are sometimes opposed  by local residents potentially affected by the development. Rather, decisions about energy are an outcome of an interplay of social processes and interests, which involves a contested redefinition of the actors’ capacity to influence the state.
By creating long-term energy systems and infrastructures, societies become locked in particular energy configurations that influence their everyday livelihoods. These complex processes are at the heart of the apparent stability and resilience of contemporary resource extraction. However, they also show that it is in constant flux.

Dates of stay: 01 October 2017 - 31 July 2018