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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Marcus Power

Power, M. & Kirshner, J.D. (2018). Powering the State: The political geographies of electrification in Mozambique. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 37(3): 498-518.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper explores the role of electricity infrastructures in helping to create, expand or limit the contours of the state in post-colonial Mozambique. Through a focus on recent electrification campaigns and attempts to improve sustainable energy access, we argue that the extension of electricity infrastructures helps to counter the state’s ‘blindness’ and to provide a more permanent visibility for the state whilst potentially enhancing its capacity to order, arrange and ‘read’ its territory and citizenry (particularly in contested rural peripheries). We argue that the material and symbolic work of large-scale infrastructural works around rural electrification and grid extension constitute an important means through which the state performs and narrates its presence and role in order to gain meaning and importance in the lives of rural residents and to forge connections with them. Aside from extending the power and reach of state institutions and their territorial authority, we contend that the development of electricity infrastructures also helps to create neoliberal subjectivities and advance neoliberalisation whilst creating lucrative opportunities for elite accumulation. We examine the different forms of institutional, material and discursive power that influence why some ways of organising energy are privileged over others and reflect on the resulting implications for energy access inequalities and state–citizen relations.