Conference Highlights – Global Energy Cultures: How Energy Shapes Our Everyday Lives


Global Energy Cultures: How Energy Shapes Our Everyday Lives

December 9-10, 2023

Aiming to unravel the threads that bind energy and our cultures and contribute to a future where sustainable practices take center stage, this conference, hosted by the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at GU-Q in collaboration with Msheireb Museums, offered a celebration of the intersection of art, activism, and scholarship about energy. Bringing together prominent scholars, policy advocates, artists, architects, writers, and activists from across the globe, this forum delved into energy’s societal, cultural, artistic, and historical impacts through history to underscore the pivotal role energy humanities plays in shaping a livable future. By understanding the socio-political dimensions of energy production and consumption, and its intersection with culture, this innovative forum empowered the imagination of just and equitable practices for energy systems around the world.

Day 1

Welcome and Opening

Firat Oruc, Associate Professor, GU-Q

Suzi Mirgani, Associate Director of Publications, CIRS, GU-Q

Misba BhatTi, Research ANALYST, CIRS, GU-Q

Abdullah Al Naama, Acting General Manager, Msheireb Museums

Concurrent Sessions

Everywhere Invisible: Household Energy Use

Moderated by Maryam Al Sada, GU-Q, this panel discussed how everyday household energy practices and gender roles relate to larger scale power systems, including global inequalities.

Marwa Koheji, New York University Abu Dhabi
Diana Montaño, Washington University in St. Louis
Abigail Harrison Moore, University of Leeds

Energyscapes: Putting Energy in Place

 On this panel, moderated by Firat Oruc, GU-Q, three scholars explored how energy makes space and place, offering new insights into the histories, presents, and futures of places through the lens of energy.

Jumanah Abbas, Qatar Museums
Nelida Fuccaro, New York University Abu Dhabi
Natalie Koch, Syracuse University

Youth Voices for Sustainable Futures

Moderated by James Olsen, GU-Q this panel talked to four student-activists from GU-Q and Northwestern Qatar, about how they are envisioning and working towards a sustainble future.

Zaina Khalil, GU-Q
Raikhan Primbetova, GU-Q
Sarah Shamim, Northwestern Qatar
Shikoh Zaidi, GU-Q

Artist Talk and Exhibition: Civil Architecture

Jumanah Abbas, Qatar Museums held a talk with Ali Karimi, Artist and Architect, Civil Architecture, about his exhibition at Msheireb Museums featuring eight recent projects by the practice that engage with issues related to ecology, extraction, and the landscapes of the Gulf.

Civil Architecture Exhibit

Heritage Spaces and Energy Futures

This panel moderated by Nouf Al-Thani, GU-Q explores heritage sites as a source of knowledge for a secure energy future, including best practices of applying alternatives forms of solar, wind, geothermal energy, and bioenergy in architectural heritage spaces.

Hafiz Ali Abdulla, Msheireb Properties
Astrid Kensinger, VCUarts Qatar
Hiroki Shin, Queen’s University Belfast

Energy Africa: Past, Present, Future

Moderated by  James Hodapp, Northwestern Qatar, this panel discussed Africa’s energy and electrical history, their present conditions, and challenges of energy transitions in the future, focusing on cross-cutting themes and issues in Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Michael Degani, University of Cambridge
Veronica Jacome, Temple University
Damilola Olawuyi, Hamad Bin Khalifa University 
Michelle Pressend, University of Capetown

Art Activity and Discussion: The Search for Power

In this discussion moderated by Katia Arfara, NYU Abu Dhabi, Ziad Abu Rish, Bard College discusses his experiential exhibition about the history of power outages in Lebanon, created with his partner, artist Tania El Khoury. The sound instillation, The Search for Power, is an art activity and lecture performance featuring El Khoury, Abu Rish, and the audience, which delves into the intersection between public utilities infrastructure, people’s relationship to the state, and various popular mobilizations to shape both. 

 “It was a real challenge to think about what does it mean to actually engage the audience of your research in an interactive way. On the other hand, there’s a whole archival turn…in the art world…So we’re kind of playing with both, how academics are thinking about public scholarship, but also how the art world is engagingwith the archival turn on that front.”

– Ziad Abu Rish

The Art Activity engaged conference participants in the overwhelming task of reviewing and making decisions on vast amounts of archival material concerning power outages in Lebanon.

Day 2

 Artist Talk: In Conversation with Omar El Akkad

This discussion moderated by Sheetal Majithia, New York University Abu Dhabi featured Omar El Akkad, journalist and author, talking about the way the Global North understands their role in suffering around the world, and the importance of telling stories that retell dominant narratives. His first book, The American War (2017) explores a future America ravaged by climate change and engaged in a civil war fought over energy, and What Strange Paradise (2021) which reimagines Peter Pan as a refugee.

“I thought about this idea of taking the conflicts that have defined the world in my lifetime…these are conflicts in which…US involvement specifically has been either from a great distance or sort of indirect, and to recast it as close to home as I could think of… a civil war where you’re fighting yourself. The idea being to talk about this notion that there’s no such thing as an exotic kind of suffering…And then the second novel What Strange Paradise, is the story of Peter Pan reinterpreted as a story of contemporary child refugee…trying to take a comforting fairytale that Westerners had been telling their kids for the last hundred years and repurposing it to tell a different kind of story.”

– Omar El Akkad

Concurrent Sessions

Architecture and Energy: Dialogue with Practitioners

Moderated by Akel Kahera, HBKU, this dialogue engaged architecture practitioners in a discussion on how architecture and urban planning shapes our day-to-day relationship with energy.

Noor Abdelmageed, The Royal Commission for AlUla
Ibrahim Jaidah, Arab Engineering Bureau
Penélope Plaza, University of Reading 

Energy and Democracy

This panel moderated by Trish Kahle, GU-Q, looked at how energy has shaped modern statecraft, democratic movements, and economic transformations, drawing from history to discuss the future of democracy. 

Ziad Abu-Rish, Bard College
Laleh Khalili, University of Exeter
Victor Seow, Harvard University

Resilience and Maintenance: Energy and Urban Infrastructures

Moderated by Anto Mohsin, Northwestern Qatar, this panel examined urban resilience and infrastructure maintenance in the context of energy production and consumption.

Sulfikar Amir, Nanyang Technological University 
Mona Harb, American University of Beirut  
Cecilia Ibarra, University of Chile
Veronica Jacome, Temple University

Work and Workers: Towards Energy Justice 

This panel, moderated by Zahra Babar, GU-Q, brings workers, particularly fossil feul workers back into the story of energy justice, considering the values and limits of the “just transition” framework, drawing from the history of work to inform contemporary justice efforts.

Ewan Gibbs, University of Glasgow 
Peyman Jafari, College of William & Mary
Trish Kahle, GU-Q
Munira Khayyat, New York University Abu Dhabi

Globalizing the Anthropocene

The story of the Anthropocene is often told from the perspective of the Global North, but this panel moderated by Dana Luciano, Rutgers University, presents the epoch in a richer light, shaped by many different geographic nodes and networks of energy production and use.

Liz Chatterjee, University of Chicago  
Ryan Cecil Jobson, University of Chicago
Brittany Meché, Williams College

Msheireb Tours

Msheireb Smart City

“What Constitutes a Smart City?” offered a behind-the-scenes glipse of the smart city elements and infrastructure within Msheireb Downtown Doha both above and below ground.

Mapping Migration Memories

Guided by Sara AlNaimi, VCUarts Qatar, this exhibition tour explored an exhibition from the multi-year research project Mapping Migration Memories that collects memories and oral histories of the biannual Qatari migrations. This project, headed by Astrid Kensinger, is part of VCUarts Qatar’s (IN)>TANGIBLE_LAB.

 Decolonizing Energy: Palestine and Beyond

This plenary discussion, moderated by Sami Hermez, Northwestern Qatar, addresses the colonial legacies of the spatial and historical development of energy systems in the Global South while foregrounding ecopolitical visions of “taking back power” and making energy justice an essential element of the decolonial project.


Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine Natural History Museum

“The world is not very complicated. They try to make the world complicated for us, but it’s really about one word, which is greed. There are some people who are interested in gathering it all and denying millions of people basic living conditions…And what you see is a devastating impact on the environment of colonization and of oppression, and of this greed.”

Muna Dajani, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

“I think there has been a big gap between that understanding of climate change and how to address it. Usually the solution also by this type of climate activism that is based in the West, it’s all around, market-based mechanisms, it’s all around techno-managerial solutions. It doesn’t really address issues of justice because it is a global issue and framing it as such is giving us all [mistakenly] equal responsibilities for it.”

Noura Alkhalili, Radboud Universiteit

“When these renewable energy transitions are being approached or conducted through an Eco- modernist approach… [it is] further empowering these illegal occupations and to destroy fragile ecosystems. So all that is embedded in an enduring colonial environmental narrative that labels land as underdeveloped or misused and it should be grabbed for saving the planet and to create green energy.”