The University of Arizona

Politics, ecology, and the new anthropology of energy: exploring the emerging frontiers of hydraulic fracking

Anna J. Willow, Sara Wylie


This article reviews recent literature relevant to the ongoing shale gas boom and introduces the Journal of Political Ecology's Special Section on hydraulic fracking. We highlight the need for ethnographic studies of the tumultuous social and physical transformations resulting from, and produced by, an unfolding frontier of energy production that unsettles social, economic, and ecological landscapes. We examine how intercommunity connections are vital to recognizing the shared structural conditions produced by the oil and gas industry's expansion, through examining the roles played by the oil field services industry, the sequestration of information and agnotology (the deliberate production of ignorance), divide and conquer tactics, and shared experiences of risk and embodied effects. Summarizing the contributions of the five articles included in the Special Section, we offer recommendations for further inquiry. We examine how social science studies of hydraulic fracking are producing new and innovative methodologies for developing participatory academic and community research projects.

Key words: digital media, embodiment, energy, hydraulic fracturing, oil field services industry, shale gas

Full Text: