In April 2023 the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) co-hosted, along with the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), the Western Humanities Alliance Annual Conference. The conference and related activities provided a humanist perspective on pressing energy challenges, a dimension which is often neglected in current discussions on energy transition and decarbonization of economies.
As public discourse on the current energy crisis and climate action are dominated by the search for technological solutions and formulation of policy responses, more sophisticated understandings of the social and cultural factors of our energy problems remain in the background. With this conference, Alberta-based humanities centres CIH and KIAS tap into cutting-edge research in the energy humanities and social sciences to disseminate important insights that will benefit other researchers as well as society at large while training the next generation of energy scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
Supported by a SSHRC Connection Grant, the activities included a two-day international academic conference at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (21-23 April 2023), and will include future public events in Calgary in fall 2023, and a special issue of the Western Humanities Review (manuscript by 31 December 2023).
The academic conference brought together leading humanities and social sciences scholars to discuss the various human dimensions of energy security including energy justice and energy sovereignty. All three themes were covered by separate panels with three speakers each, including graduate students, emerging and senior scholars. The themes were also be addressed by three keynote speakers: Sheena Wilson, University of Alberta, who spoke on Energy Justice; Kirsten Westphal, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, on Energy Security; and, Raylene Whitford (Canative Energy, Edmonton), on Indigenous Energy Sovereignty.
The goals of the conference, public events, and the publication of a themed special issue of the Western Humanities Review are: 1) to create critical and humanist knowledge around the concepts of energy security, energy sovereignty and energy justice for an academic audience; 2) to engage with the public in discussions on these concepts and highlight the social and cultural origins and meanings of these terms which are used by politicians and decision-makers to justify wide-sweeping energy policies; 3) to introduce graduate students and emerging scholars into research networks and train them in collaborative humanities and social sciences research, as well as partnership building, networking, conference organization and editorial work; and, 4) to consolidate existing collaboration between KIAS and CIH on energy research in the humanities and social sciences.