Afghanistan's energy sociotechnical imaginaries: Alternative visions in a conflict zone.

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Imaginaries are understood to be both discursive and cognitive constructs that shape behaviour, policies, and institutions – but how do longstanding imaginaries evolve in new circumstances, and how do they interact with existing power structures in changed circumstances? Drawing on conceptions of discursive power, this paper investigates the interplay of power with both new and old imaginaries in the case of Afghanistan, specifically regarding alternative energy futures. Employing an interpretive approach, we draw on document analysis and semi-structured interviews with elite stakeholders and policy observers, to provide an account of the relations between alternative energy futures imaginaries and political power. We demonstrate, how certain discursive practices are made possible, authorised and articulated through imaginative geographies. Critically, the government-advocated imaginary of Afghanistan as an energy corridor and hence an energy importer both represents the views of several powerful interests and concurs with the long-held idea of Afghanistan as a buffer state. In this way, political path dependencies are reinforced through a supportive imaginary, just as the dominant imaginary is itself reinforced by the main stakeholders. While in line with our interpretive epistemology we do not make claims for the specific configuration of imaginaries being generalisable elsewhere, we do find the general theoretical approach useful for understanding discursive aspects of conflict zone politics, particularly vis-à-vis energy system trajectories.
ZeitschriftPolitical Geography
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.10.2022

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
Some parts of this study were written at the Workgroup for Economic and Infrastructure Policy (WIP) at Technical University of Berlin, for which we are grateful to Prof. Dr. Christian von Hirschhausen. Abdullah Fahimi gratefully acknowledges funding from Heinrich-B?ll- Stiftung.

Funding Information:
Our interviewees acknowledge that politics play a role in the selection and implementation of energy projects and the scale of technologies which according to them negatively affect the sector. They assert that Afghanistan is a country divided along ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines. In 2016 re-routing of an electricity transmission project between Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (TUTAP) which was financially supported by ADB was met with mass protests by the Hazara ethnic group. Their protests, in turn, sparked reactions from other ethnic groups. The PSMP originally recommended that the power line pass through central Afghanistan ( ADB, 2013 ), a predominantly Hazara populated region. However, authorities at the Ministry of Energy and Water later changed the route. Protests by ethnic Hazaras were attacked in which more than 80 protesters lost their lives and hundreds more were injured ( Mashal & Nader, 2016 ).

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