Solar energies on a rooftop, Kalahandi District, Orissa, 2017.

Solar energies on a rooftop, Kalahandi District, Orissa, 2017. Photocredit: Nandita Badami. 


Shadows for Sunlight: An Anthropology of Solution

In the solar industry, a “solution” is everything from a broad fix (“solar is a climate solution”), to a specific project sold in its entirety covering the technology, the civil engineering works and the appropriate legal paperwork (“we completed six solutions in Maharashtra last year”). Activists use the word to designate social fallout from large-scale solar projects (“this is a solution-impacted community”), and the word is a regularly featured as rhetorical flourish on pamphlets and advertisements and book covers, (an Ikea banner states “the solution rises every morning, so lets rise to the challenge together”, and a popular book is titled “The Solar Revolution. One World. One Solution. Providing Energy and Food for One Billion people”). Of course “solar solutions” is a popular brand name for several smaller a solar companies.

My project, based on ethnographic work conducted in various sites connected with the Indian solar industry, casts “solution” as an object of knowledge, and a concept in the process of accruing novel historical, moral and political weight. It asks what it means for our thinking to be formatted by “solution,” particularly as it relates to large scale industrialized liberal fantasies that must render, at least rhetorically, crises “solvable.” The project analyses a series of linguistic and conceptual operations through which solar comes to be imbued with meaning as solution in order to understand solution as a matrix of meaning and action in our present moment.