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Agency at Work

Ethnographies in/of Late Industrialism


Edited By Monika Baer

Rooted in anthropological and ethnological traditions, this volume offers analytical insights into the workings of agency in late industrialism revealed in interactions between a coal power plant and a local community in Opole Silesia, in southwestern Poland. In this context, the authors show by the use of the ethnographic method, how variables and forces of various scales shape political events centered around the power plant; grassroots economic dynamics and entrepreneurship; the local semiosphere uniting the divided social group; affective dimensions of a social protest; (un)doing gender in the industrial workplace; and the mobile livelihoods of migrant industrial workers. By doing so, they concretize in different ways both the concept of late modernity and agency.

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Opole Power Plant as a Sociopolitical Catalyzer (Petr Skalník)


Petr Skalník1

Abstract: This introductory chapter deals with the coal as energy security and tackles the agency of Dobrzeń Wielki commune vis-à-vis Opole Power Plant and its expansion while a local self-government faces takeover of the part of commune’s administrative territory by the neighboring city of Opole. These events are being discussed in a wider context of divergent energy policies endorsed by the European Union and the Polish nation state, respectively.

Keywords: coal, Dobrzeń Wielki, energy security, local self-government, Opole.

Energy security appears as one of the decisive factors in keeping the human civilization in balance. On the one hand, most of 200 nation states and territories would like to be autarkic energetically, on the other, they realize that it is virtually impossible. Not every country is rich in energy resources and thus is compelled to seek these resources abroad by way of trade or territorial annexation. Those energetically rich sell their surplus in energy to other countries. Some wars, both historically distant and recent, were fought over energy resources. It can be argued that future wars are to be fought in direct dependence on the demand for energy resources. Even without energy wars the unequal distribution of energy resources will lead to regional and global tensions.

Globalization has brought about an ever-increasing realization that energy resources should be treated with economic cautiousness, especially those deemed exhaustible such as fossil fuels. Viewing the limited supply of these fuels, some countries...

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