Anthropology, Cultural studies, Environmental studies, Geography, Political science, Urban Studies

Photo by Pavel Anoshin on Unsplash

Co-funded by the Open Society University Network (OSUN)


Course date

25 May - 18 June, 2021
Application for this course is closed.
Course Director(s): 

Michael LaBelle

Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy/Department of Economics and Business, CEU, Budapest, Hungary/Vienna, Austria

Erzsébet Strausz

Department of International Relations, CEU, Budapest, Hungary/Vienna, Austria
Course Faculty: 

Ian Cook

Center for Media, Data and Society at CEU's Democracy Institute, CEU, Budapest, Hungary

Siarhei Liubimau

Department of Social Science, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania

Asta Vonderau

Department of Anthropology and Philosophy, Martin Luther University, Halle, Germany
This course brings together people with their own local stories of the struggles and success of people and communities transitioning towards a sustainable energy system. Participants in this course will learn the skills to tell stories and multi-media narratives around energy transitions. The instructors will assist participates in using research methods to identify core transition themes and present these through a multi-media lens, such as articles, podcasts, and stories. 
The research scaffolding focuses on four cultural dimensions of an energy shift: a) every day of communities formed around specific energy generations; b) meanings of work, employment and the corporate cultures related to particular energy generations; c) symbols of distinct energy generations in institutionalized long-lasting political ideologies; and d) notions and arguments regarding justice in energy policies. Those cultural dimensions help to develop sensitivity to complex relational spatiality of a specific energy generation project, to its actors and related policies.     

Online course format 

The course is organized around three main units that creatively work with different aspects of energy transitions in the form of lectures, workshops as well as individual and team projects.

Unit 1, May 25: selected applicants begin to develop their case studies before coming to the course. After submitting a short description of a case study of a localized energy transition  in the application package, selected participants take part in a preparatory online session to assist pre-course fieldwork. The starting point of the fieldwork is observation and primary interpretation of how a specific expected or current energy shift is faced by urban actors (in governance, civil society, business, cultural sector, etc.) and how urban actors respond. How are the specific meanings of energy generation instrumentalized in this process? How do relations between institutions change? What kind of spaces in cities and beyond become prioritized or marginalized? Which urban development and planning paradigms are fostered and which are criticized? 

Unit 2, June 7 - 11: Concepts and Methods
Lectures: The focus is to provide participants with a deeper knowledge of energy cultures and assist development of their own case studies to highlight conceptual framings. The first week provides the conceptual framings to understand the bigger picture in energy transitions.
Individual consultations and Workshop Teams: Course participants bring their fieldwork material to CEU and develop it into finished case studies – written or audio (podcast), in cooperation and critical dialogue with peer participants. There will also be individualized mentors from the program’s faculty assisting students developing their own case studies. The team of the course tutors and lecturers are guiding this process in the format of lectures, workshops, discussions of readings, examples, and drafts' presentations. The goal is to relate the variety of [ideally conflictual contradictory] arguments about cases of energy transitions from different places and to inform each argument by the wide variety of others. 
Unit 3, June 14 - 18: Case Studies and Development
Lectures: The focus of this week is to provide students with developed case studies on the energy transition. These will serve as examples for their own work. The lectures will include how the research was conducted and decision-making on developing the case studies.
Workshop Teams: Work will be carried over from Unit 2 with further refinement and the finalization of the case study. Skill development will focus on finalizing the medium and narrative storylines. Student work will be presented at the end of the session.


Unit 1: May 25:  13:00 – 15:00 CET: Pre-session thematic module
Unit 2: June 7 – 11: 12:00 – 13:30 CET: Lectures; 14:00 – 15:30 CET: Individual and Group Project consultations
Unit 3: June 14 – 18: 12:00 – 13:30 CET: Lectures; 14:00 – 15:30 CET: Individual and Group Project consultations12:00 – 13:30 CET: Lectures; 14:00 – 15:30 CET: Individual and Group Project consultations
A graduate of this course will be equipped to do case centered and comparative multiscalar urban studies of energy shifts (with awareness of conceptual apparatuses needed, ability to identify empirical fields and organise fieldwork, ability to make participatory alliances with local development organizations, urban planning, cultural sector, etc.).