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Renewable Energies, Renewed Authoritarianisms? The Political Economy of Solar Energy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Contribution to Conference
HUMSS Colloquium
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)
Research cluster:
Contested Governance
Countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa are pursuing ambitious targets for a transition from fossil fuels to renewables. While this shift marks an important point of transition, the region’s political economy is still predominantly analysed through the prism of fossil fuels and state-centric approaches. Authoritarian power is widely understood as directly linked to the diffusion of oil revenues and the ways in which states use these to reinforce authoritarian rule. While the distributed nature of solar energy offers a possibility for more democratic, inclusive and independent (energy) politics, transregionally connected authoritarian elites attempt to transform it into concentrated forms of political and economic power. This could replicate existing dependencies and authoritarian practices. In this presentation, I argue that (trans-)regional approaches are needed to overcome the methodological nationalism of previous studies, and to better understand how different actors within and beyond the state invest solar energy discourses and material realities with democratic and/or authoritarian meanings. I seek to explore the conditions under which the expansion of solar energy enables the renewal of authoritarian practices behind a façade of sustainability, or their contestation and disintegration.
Date of publication:
Language: English
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