Charcoal power: The political violence of non-fossil fuel in Uganda
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Branch, A., & Martiniello, G. (2018). Charcoal power: The political violence of non-fossil fuel in Uganda. Geoforum, 97 242-252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.09.012
The politics of global energy are subject to increasing academic interest. Most work on energy politics focuses on oil, based upon a normative vision of a global energy modernity of fossil fuels and a transition to renewables. In most African countries, however, the primary source of energy is not oil, but woodfuel. Charcoal is of particular importance due to its centrality to urbanization: charcoal is the primary energy source for up to 80% of urban Africa, and its consumption is expected to continue increasing with expanding urbanization. Despite this centrality, the politics of charcoal remain largely unexplored. This article explores how political power shapes charcoal production and how charcoal as an energy source shapes political power through an in-depth study of charcoal extraction in northern Uganda. It argues that charcoal production, and its particular destructiveness, should be understood as a continuation of the violence of the 1986-2006 war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. Based on several months of fieldwork in Northern Uganda, the article draws a distinction between the politics of small-scale household production and of large-scale industrial production. By focusing on the political violence of industrial charcoal production, we argue that orthodox academic and policy narratives about the charcoal industry in Africa can be qualified, and new questions can be raised concerning broader narratives of energy modernity and global energy politics.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.09.012
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/285433