Renewable energy, geopolitics and socio-political conflict in Mozambique

Joshua Daniel Kirshner, Yaakov Garb, Nelly Leblond

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The sociology of technology (STS) has engaged with the political entanglements and consequences of energy sources for almost a century, primarily in developed country settings, while, more recently, political ecology (PE) has critically examined the environmental rationales and impacts of development efforts in developing countries. Yet, their decades of insight have scarcely been brought to bear on the vigorous push for renewables energies in rural (“off-grid”) contexts in the global South. At the same time, while political science and international relations have examined the geopolitics of nuclear energy and fossil fuels, they are only now being applied to renewables, which have seemed more local and less political.

Renewable energy discourses and efforts, formed initially in the contexts of the Global North, and with little disciplinary linkage to these bodies of knowledge, have, therefore, remained remarkably uncritical regarding many key assumptions and categories. “Energy,” for example, serves as a central and reified driving term rather than a contingent articulation of multiple political projects and spatial scales. Key abstractions (transitions, renewables, and environmental gains) are presumed starting points, rather than examined genealogically as socially fraught end points. The meanings and empirical validity of assumed benefits of RE (decentralization and self-reliance, democratization and empowerment, security and resilience) are presumed, rather than assessed. In this paper we draw on these literatures and our study of renewable energy transition dynamics in Mozambique before and after independence, to offer a more nuanced and critical view of the geopolitics of RE as part of complex social assemblages at multiple scales (household, village, national, international). Our case study underscores the extent to which RE is enmeshed in the legacies of colonialism and contested state-building efforts in rural peripheries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2019
EventEnergy Geopolitics and Renewable Electrification: Theoretical insights and practical implications - Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Duration: 17 Dec 201920 Dec 2019


ConferenceEnergy Geopolitics and Renewable Electrification
Internet address


  • Renewable energy
  • Geopolitics
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Southern Africa

Cite this