Urban Electrical Hybridisations in the Global South 

The Sustainability Transformation programme area is pleased to host Marie-Hélène Zerah at the University of Stavanger during 11.04.2023-21.04.2023. As part of this stay, Dr. Zerah will offer a Governing Energy Transitions (GET)-together seminar during 14:00-15:00 on Wednesday, 19 April, in EOJ-377 at Elise Ottesen-Jensens Hus on the campus at Ullandhaug. She will offer insights into her work on a range of urban electrical hybridisations in the Global South.

Marie-Hélène Zérah is a senior researcher at the Institute of Research for Development, Paris, currently deputed to the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi as Senior Visiting Fellow, where she is focusing on the role of small towns in India, urban energy transformation and the governance of smart cities. Having published a book on the question of water access in Delhi and co-edited a book on the ‘Right to the City in India’, she has worked extensively in the area of urban infrastructure, urban governance and urban democracy in Indian cities. Her research on‘Subaltern Urbanisation’ was published by Springer in 2017 (with E. Denis). In 2020, she has published ‘Quand l’Inde s’urbanise (How India Urbanizes)’ at the Editions de l’Aube, a book that traces changes in urban service provision in Indian cities since the 1990s. She is also part of the editorial board of the journal Geoforum, and the series editor of ‘Exploring Urban Change in South Asia’ with Springer. She has previously headed the urban dynamics research team at the Centre de Sciences Humaines of New Delhi between 2009 and 2013. She has also worked with the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank and the Suez Group in the past, and completed consultancies with various organisations, including the European Union. She is on the scientific committee of CURE in Delhi and of the Water for All chair in Paris. She received her PhD in Urban Studies from the Paris Institute of Urban Studies.

Her presentation posits that there is a co-evolution of the energy and urban transitions in the Global South that produces a territorial diversity of hybrid electrical configurations. Urban electrical hybridisations (UEH) are shaped by shifts in energy systems such as the expansion and modernisation of the conventional grid and assemblages of heterogeneous solutions outside the grid (solar panels, batteries, diesel generators, etc.) and by the varied spaces that constitute the urban. Building on a range of examples in large and dense cities, urban peripheries and isolated towns in Africa, Asia and the Middle East (as part of a collective project, https://hybridelec.hypotheses.org/), the presentation will propose a typology of UEH. It will then open the debate with several questions: are certain urban morphologies more conducive to a process of electrical hybridisation? Can the diversity of UEH help us rethink the notion of transition and our analytical approaches? Does the concept of urban electrical hybridisations lead us to rethink scales of solidarity?

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