Watching fracking: Public engagement in postindustrial Britain

Szolucha, Anna (2022) Watching fracking: Public engagement in postindustrial Britain. American Ethnologist, 49 (1). pp. 77-91. ISSN 0094-0496

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The UK government's efforts to facilitate shale gas exploration have been matched by a surge of public opposition. The latter has manifested in a broad spectrum of activities in which local communities have “watched fracking”—meaning they have observed, protested, and filmed outside the drilling site, often taking note of when the pumps start and stop. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northwest England, I analyze residents’ various “watching” activities as one dynamic through which they sought to mediate situated modes of sociopolitical erasure. Watching fracking was a form of directly participating in public matters, compensating the watchers for the state's perceived failures and those of corporate models of community engagement. It also helped members of the anti-fracking community distance themselves from the state and their own feelings of alienation. By thus highlighting how disappointment with state formations interacts with an activist subjectivity, anthropologists can deepen our understanding of the changing relationship between state and society.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: Research for this article was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 657039 and ERC Advanced Grant no. 340673, as well as the NERC-ESRC program on Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK Energy System (NE/R018146/1).
Uncontrolled Keywords: fracking, public engagement, state, citizen science, protest, extractive industry, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
L100 Economics
L300 Sociology
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2021 10:35
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2022 09:45

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