Between 2009 and 2013 Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer conducted fieldwork in Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepec to examine the political, social, and ecological dimensions of moving from fossil fuels to wind power. Their work manifested itself as a new ethnographic form: the duograph—a combination of two single-authored books that draw on shared field sites, archives, and encounters that can be productively read together, yet also stand alone in their analytic ambitions.
In his volume, Energopolitics, Boyer examines the politics of wind power and how it is shaped by myriad factors, from the legacies of settler colonialism and indigenous resistance to state bureaucracy and corporate investment. Drawing on interviews with activists, campesinos, engineers, bureaucrats, politicians, and bankers, Boyer outlines the fundamental impact of energy and fuel on political power. Boyer also demonstrates how large conceptual frameworks cannot adequately explain the fraught and uniquely complicated conditions on the Isthmus, illustrating the need to resist narratives of Anthropocenic universalism and to attend to local particularities.
"Dominic Boyer's Energopolitics is a deep immersion in the prosaics and practices of life in the Anthropocene and the prospect of transitions to low carbon futures. Boyer exposes this transition in all of its messiness, its contradictions, and its potentialities. Contemporary aeolian politics of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec demands what Boyer calls the conceptual minima of capital, biopower, and energopower with the ethnographic maxima of contested history of land tenure, boss politics, and heterogeneous opposition movements, the phantasmatic status of state sovereignty, clientelist networks and corporatist machinations of the Mexican political parties, a flailing petro-state confronting global climate change, and a vulnerable parastatal electricity utility. Find a chair, settle in, hold on tight, and enjoy."
Michael Watts, Class of 63 Professor, University of California, Berkeley
“Any serious discussion of politics in the Anthropocene must account for the relationship between energy and power. Dominic Boyer's rich ethnography of wind power development in southern Mexico does foundational work in precisely this, not only offering a fine-grained description of the complex and conflicted local politics of renewable energy transformation on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, but also articulating a new conceptual framework for making sense of power. Energopolitics is chastening, revelatory, and essential.”
Roy Scranton, author of
We’re Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change