“Bloody Greenies”: How are rural/regional communities perceiving energy transitions and what scope is there for challenging historical, ideological, and discursively formed subjectivities? (17034)
The concept of ‘just transition’ presupposes that there are elements of current transitions – within energy resource regions - that are manifestly unjust or exploitative to communities or at least certain sections of them. But what if the injustice is misrecognized as ‘progress’ and what if it is heavily masked by enhanced job opportunities, higher earning capacity and new forms of power and freedom? In this context, the discourse of ‘just transition’, ‘low carbon’ transition and ‘climate change mitigation’ will have little currency within local communities, even if they are the most adversely and directly affected by current fossil-fuel energy and mining development. As such, the normative goal of encouraging a shift to alternative energy systems and broad based participation in the transition process, needs to start with an exploration of the gaps - discursive, cultural, ideological – between such urban/environmental ‘causes’ and the everyday discourses and practices of those living in rural/regional communities. Drawing from dialectical-materialist literature and post-modern and post-colonial theories on subjectivity and agency, this presentation will explore the combined effect of ideology and imperialist strategies of mimicry, subjection and empowerment, on subjectivity and agency at a local scale. Across these theoretical approaches, the main concern is not with hierarchical structures of power – such as global dominance over the local – but with the more complex, web-like, power relations in contemporary societies, which are simultaneously empowering and constraining. These concepts and theories will be explored in the context of qualitative, empirical research conducted in two regions of Australia – the Latrobe Valley (Victoria) and the Surat Basin (Queensland) - that have each been dominated by agriculture and more recently by energy and mining. Although these studies did not use action research methods, I will highlight possible issues and impediments to any form of qualitative research that has radical, political or emancipatory aims. Mindful of Foucault’s anti-method stance, I am interested in unpacking the reality of power asymmetries and discursive rifts between researchers and community participants, which are unavoidably present in and form part of social research.