Electricity is a quirky commodity: more often than not, it cannot be stored, easily transported, or imported from overseas. Before lighting up our homes, it changes hands through specialized electricity markets that rely on engineering expertise to trade competitively while respecting the physical requirements of the electric grid. The Current Economy: Electricity Markets and Techno-Economics (Stanford UP, 2021) is an ethnography of electricity markets in the United States that shows the heterogeneous and technologically inflected nature of economic expertise today. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among market data analysts, electric grid engineers, and citizen activists, this book provides a deep dive into the convoluted economy of electricity and its reverberations throughout daily life.
Canay Özden-Schilling argues that many of the economic formations in everyday life come from work cultures rarely suspected of doing economic work: cultures of science, technology, and engineering that often do not have a claim to economic theory or practice, yet nonetheless dictate forms of economic activity. Contributing to economic anthropology, science and technology studies, energy studies, and the anthropology of expertise, this book is a map of the everyday infrastructures of economy and energy into which we are plugged as denizens of a technological world.
This interview is part of an NBN special series on “Mobilities and Methods.”
Canay Özden-Schilling is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the National University of Singapore.
Alize Arıcan is an incoming Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University's Center for Cultural Analysis. She is an urban anthropologist focusing on futurity, care, and migration in Turkey. Her work has been featured in Current Anthropology, City & Society, Radical Housing Journal, and entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.