Renewing Samsø: Re-conceptualizing Politics as a Process of Community Renewal

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How are we to understand politics if antagonism (Mouffe 2005) and disagreement (Rancière 1998) have no parts to play? Through the case of Samsø, Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island since 1999, I seek to expand our theoretical understanding of politics, usually conceptualized as a conflictridden process, an “unpleasant” (Brown 2015) battle between diverging interests. I investigate and attempt to turn this understanding of politics around by engaging the case of Samsø, where I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in 2013 and 14.The rural island community of Samsø managed to become self-sufficient with renewable energy over a ten-year period, notably without sparking much controversy or disagreement among the islanders. The results of the project were not simply wind turbines, district heating plants and solar systems but also new jobs, a heightened level of activity on the island and hope for the future, and, I argue, through the process and accomplishment of the Renewable Energy Island project, a strengthened sense of community and confidence among the islanders.By viewing the island as a climate laboratory invested in creating and revitalizing communities not only locally but nationally, regionally and globally, I ask: if indeed such a process of renewal must be understood as a political process and the island’s energy transition as an inherently political event, what can Samsø teach us about the workings of politics and local democracy as enacted in practice? This is politics not as election result or ideological struggle over values, ideals and the distribution of goods, but as the down-to-earth but significant activity of creating something new together.
Original languageDanish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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