To survey current research on energy transitions an international, a two-day symposium was held in January 2017 at the Harnack Haus of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, representing a joint undertaking of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (MPICEC, Mülheim/Ruhr) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Historians, chemists, anthropologists, political scientists, and architectural historians met to discuss the current role of the humanities in studying energy systems and their transformations.
The symposium has shown that an integrated approach to the question of the emergence and maintenance of different kinds of energy and resource regimes is ripe for development. It has become clear that a historiography of energy transitions has to deal with new types of theoretical and methodological frameworks that systematically go beyond case study-based microhistories. While these studies allow for close insights on the materiality of history, the macro-scale processes of resource transformations ask for a wider understanding of the mutual interactions and dependencies between essentially co-evolutionary processes of human, bio-, and geohistory. A second symposium will be held in February 2018 under the aegis of the Human Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society, with the aim to ground the subject in the MPG and to lift its potential for an interdisciplinary research agenda tackling this highly future-relevant issue.