Pasts/Presents/Futures of Electric Cultures -- ACLA 2023 Seminar

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Sage Gerson
contact email: 

This seminar asks, what knowledges are produced through scholarly, pedagogical, and creative engagements with electricity?

Thinking with, through, and against the ways that electricity has become a symbol of progress, modernity, and the future in the Global North, this seminar seeks to center the cultural, ecological, and political entanglements of electricity and its infrastructures. In doing so, this seminar intends to push the energy humanities beyond its predominate focus on oil, what Christopher Jones succinctly describes as its “petromyopia,” to center scholarly, pedagogical, and creative work focused on the relationship between electricity and culture. In particular, this seminar seeks contributions that complicate electricity’s connection to linear technological progress and instead illuminate electricity's more complex, uneven, extractive, and nonlinear relationships.

This seminar asserts that knowledge and cultural production from BIPOC communities and communities in the Global Souths are central (not auxiliary) to understanding modernity, the future, what it means to live well and sustainably, and how these are entangled with electricity. This seminar also seeks to strengthen the commitment of the environmental and energy humanities to social, racial, anticolonial, environmental, energy, participatory, epistemic, and recognition justices.

Some of the questions animating this seminar include: How do different cultural producers from around the world represent electrified modernity and imagine its pasts, presents, and futures? What comes to light when scholars and creators approach electricity through the movements, practices, narratives, and debates arising from communities in the Global South and BIPOC communities worldwide?

This seminar invites submissions that explore varied electric cultures, which may include, but are not limited to:

• Representations of electricity in literature and other cultural production

• Aesthetics of electricity

• Speculative futures and/or alternative histories of electric power

• The role of electricity in modernity

• Electricity theft

• Electricity and new media

• Electricity’s relationship to other energy systems

• Alternatives to electricity/the power grid

• Electrified energy justice

• Electricity and the nation state

• Electricity and domesticity/domestic transformation

• Electricity and gender and/or sexuality

• Electricity and race

• Electric consciousness and GE’s “electric slave” advertising

• Lighting and illumination

• Shock and electrocution, including: electro-shock therapy, the electric chair, tasers

• Thunderbolts, lightning, static electricity

• Elemental approaches to electricity

• The human body as an electrical phenomenon

• Electricity and pleasure

• Galvanism

• Electric animals

• The power grid/grids/gridding/hacking the grid

• Electricity generation and fuel types including renewable energy generation

• Hydroelectricity and damming

• Coal, coal mining, combustion

• Extraction and colonization

• Other cultural conceptions of energy and power outside of Western resource commodification and extraction


The ACLA annual meeting will take place in Chicago, IL between March 16-19, 2023.

To submit an abstract/paper proposal, please visit

Submission is open until October 31, 2022.

Please direct questions and/or comments to Sage Gerson at