- Professor Jamie Cross
- Professor of Social and Economic Anthropology
- Room 5.28 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
- Office: +44(0)1316515181 Mobile: +44(0)7552817310
- Research Interests
- Renewable energy and green politics, Climate change, Science and technology, Design, International development
Guidance and Feedback Hours
- Friday 10-12
I am a social anthropologist specialising in the study of energy, technology, economy and sustainable development.
For the past decade my research has examined how fuel and electricity organises or re-organises life in places of chronic global poverty. I have been particularly focused on the effects of markets for off grid solar energy across the global south. Recent projects included Displaced Energy (an ethnographic study of energy cultures amongst displaced people in Burkina Faso and Kenya) and Life Off the Grid (a comparative study of off grid living in Papua New Guinea, India and Scotland). I currently lead a 2-year study of data politics in Sub Saharan Africa’s off grid energy sector.
Through collaborations with visual artists, filmmakers, and designers, my research practice also involves the production of physical and digital objects that probe the material politics of our energy futures. Recent projects include Solar What?! (a fully repairable, open source, solar powered lighting and charging device), the Off Grid Solar Scorecard (a public platform to track sustainable design in the solar industry), and The Solar Fix (a short film about solar powered things that break down).
Details of my current teaching, research, publications and public engagement can be found below. Open access links to my publications are available here. I am a co-editor of Pluto Press's Anthropology, Culture and Society book series.
I currently teach undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the anthropology of energy, international development and global political economy. For further details, see:
I supervise doctoral and postdoctoral scholars and welcome expressions of interest from anybody with overlapping research interests. For further details, see:
My teaching projects continue to explore audio and visual methodologies, and connect anthropology to field of design. For further details, see:
The Solar Future: Since 2011 I have been following the work of engineers and entrepreneurs involved in designing and distributing solar photovoltaic (PV) lighting systems to people who live without reliable access to mains electricity across India. As governments, international development donors and businesses commit themselves to realising targets for universal energy access this research examines the relationships involved in creating markets for renewable energy technologies in contexts of global poverty and the values, practices and meanings that mediate relations to electrically powered things. I have expanded my research in India with projects in Papua New Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso, and and am currently finishing a book, 'Everyone is Not Illuminated'. I am currently exploring attempts to find value in poor people's energy data as part of the Energy Data for All research group and through a major new EPSRC funded project (2017-2019) which explores applications for blochains/distributed ledgers in East Africa's off grid energy markets.
Infrastructure: From a focus on large-scale industrial development projects like India’s Special Economic Zones to a focus on technologies for energy generation and storage in places where there is no electricity grid, one strand of my research has involved an engagement with the social and material relationships that constitute infrastructure. A recent ESRC funded research project Off the Grid: Relational Infrastructures for Fragile Futures (2013-15) looked comparatively at infrastructures for energy and health in parts of rural India, Papua New Guinea and Scotland. I currently lead the ESRC/AHRC funded Displaced Energy project (2016-2018) which is developing qualitative approaches to energy infrastructures in refugee camps and settlements across sub Saharan Africa.
The Poverty Business: An ongoing strand of research is concerned with the role of transnational corporations and social enterprises as agents of development. From a focus on corporate social responsibility programmes to the role of the private sector in delivering goods and services to the global poor my research explores the moralities and social relationships that are shaped and articulated by market based approaches to development. I was co-founder of the Centre for New Economies of Development and lead the ESRC’s Seminar Series, ‘Doing Good by Doing Well: Capitalism, Humanitarianism and International Development’ (2014-2017). One outcome of this work has been a set of collectively produced resources and visual material on Humanitarian Goods.
Work, Labour and Global Supply Chains: My doctoral and post-doctoral research projects focused on the lived experience of industrial work and labour at sites of global manufacturing in contemporary India. I have written about the impact of liberalising economic reforms on industrial workers; on the aspirations for social mobility that manufacture consent to industrial work discipline; on occupational health and safety and on relationships between technology and gender in India's global workplaces. Elements of this work form the basis of my book Dream Zones: Anticipating Capitalism and Development in India published in 2014 by Pluto Press. I am currently working to extend this ongoing concern as part of the EU funded project (207-2020) Make IT Fair, which tracks issues of social and evironmental justice in the supply chains for micro-electronic goods.
Along with a commitment to field based, ethnographic research my work is built upon an on-going engagement with the issues I write about. I have been an occasional contributor to the LSE Review of Books and have written for The Guardian.
I manage Solar What?! (a project to design and build fully repairable, open source solar powered lighting and charging devices). I run the Off Grid Solar Scorecard, an initiative intended to draw attention to questions of material politics and sustainable design in the global solar industry. I have previously acted as a Technical Advisor to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a non-profit research and advocacy group that promotes social and environmental justice athe global solar industry.
If you are interested in being supervised by Jamie Cross, please see the links below for more information: