What Possibilities for Hope at the Points of Energy Production and Consumption?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Thembi LUCKETT, University of Witswatersrand, South Africa
Throughout history there have been dreams, visions and hopes for a utopian world. This paper argues that hope is is an ontological reality, emergent from the unfinishedness of the world. From this premise, the paper seeks to explore manifestations of hope at the points of production and consumption, specifically within the energy sector in Lephalale, Limpopo. The construction of Medupi coal power station is heralded as “creating a better life for all” and contributing to the creation of the “first post-apartheid town” through this mega-project (Brown, 2015). However, workers at the point of production of energy at coal power stations in Lephalale have regularly taken action against the working conditions they are forced to endure. Global issues regarding the nature of energy production and consumption and the consequent implications for the sustainability of the planet also confront workers. How does this affect imaginings of the future of work in the sector? Furthermore, many community members surrounding coal power stations are typically unemployed and unable to access electricity due to unaffordability. Communities face devastation of the water, land and air that they use, destroying the possibility of dignified lives. In this context, what possibilities open up for individual aspirations and collective hopes? The site is indicative of many of the stark contradictions of post-apartheid South Africa. Through ethnographic research methods, this paper seeks to explore the ambiguities of hope and utopianism, and the lack thereof, at the interconnections between workers and communities.