Notes on the anthropology of electricity in context of remote-area electrification projects in Indonesia and other countries

Max Richter, Pujo Semedi, Ariel Liebman, Nouruz Oktaby, Krisna Satya

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch


    National governments seek to provide all citizens with basic services and utilities. In line with this,Indonesia’s massive infrastructure drive is creating altogether new forms of interconnectivity and economic opportunity across the archipelago, with new toll roads, seaports, industrial estates and much more paving the way for unprecedented flows of goods, ideas, people and capital (cf. Inda and Rosaldo, 2002). Program Indonesia Terang is within this a major new pathway for providing electricity to areas that the national grid has not yet reached, including a proposed significant renewable energy component. Large-scale electrification efforts can of course produce enormous benefits, but also unforeseen problems and challenges, especially when seeking to ensure that electricity in geographically remote areas is local-driven, reliable, affordable, equitable and sustainable. Anthropologists should be well equipped to describe and theorise these kinds of on-the-ground realities with depth and nuance. Within a broader framework of Australia-Indonesia Centre macro-modelling, micro-grid/grid extension planning and other activities guided by RI-ESDM, this paper explores recent literature on the anthropology of electricity. After summarising White’s and Nader’s historical perspectives on the anthropology of energy, the paper highlights contemporary examples of local and translocal impacts engendered through village electrification (e.g., Winther & Wilhite, 2016; Gupta, 2016). Positive outcomes from remote electrification programmes are generally well-documented;but as discussed here, sustainable local-level electricity also requires close attention to issues such as socio-political village structure, equity of access and lifestyle change (cf. Li, 2007).Most remote-electrification issues fall squarely within the anthropologist’s traditional field of inquiry: these are only now beginning to garner significant attention and, in the context of major programmes, reflect a need for deeper interdisciplinary engagement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPost-Reformasi Indonesia: the challenges of social inequalities and inclusion
    Subtitle of host publicationThe 6th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia, Universitas Indonesia, Depok, West Java, 25-28 July 2016, Proceedings
    EditorsSemiarto Aji Purwanto
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventInternational Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia - Depok, Indonesia
    Duration: 25 Jul 201628 Jul 2016


    ConferenceInternational Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia


    • Anthropology of electricity
    • Development programmes
    • Social impacts
    • Interdisciplinary cooperation

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