About the project

The Coal Rush and Beyond

Project summary

Globally, coal extraction and burning has been booming in the last decade. This inter-disciplinary project investigates the ‘coal rush’ in sociopolitical terms, asking how coal reliance emerges, and whether it might be superseded. We seek explanations of why new coal mines and coal-fired power stations are constructed, investigate social conflicts centred on new coal facilities, and analyse what social factors may enable transition from coal. Local sites, three national contexts, and transnational connections will be compared to develop a nuanced understanding of coal. The research team is undertaking a three-year study of coal in Australia, Germany and India.

Research agenda

  • To analyse the political economy of coal across local, national and transnational contexts, and investigate how this relates to energy and climate policy in Australia, Germany and India;
  • To undertake historical and social analysis of reliance on coal in selected case study localities in three countries;
  • To investigate how the lived experience, material exposure to coal mining, and ethical commitments of people in coal mining communities in the selected case study communities shapes the contestation of coal;
  • To understand how this local contestation impacts on (and is influenced by) the ways in which coal is culturally constructed and contested in media and other public domains in the selected countries;
  • To use the results of interdisciplinary comparative analysis to develop new theoretical insights into pathways to the transition from coal.

Chief investigators

James Goodman

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

James Goodman conducts research into social change and global politics, with a special focus on global justice and climate justice. He draws from a disciplinary background in political sociology, international relations, political economy and political geography, and he has published more than eight books. He is an Associate Professor in the Social and Political Change Group of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney, where he has been based since 1996.

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Tom Morton

Associate Professor, Journalism Program, University of Technology Sydney

Tom Morton is Associate Professor of Journalism in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS and Director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism. Before joining UTS in 2010 he was an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and documentary producer with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for more than 20 years. From 1993 to 2006 he worked as an investigative journalist on Background Briefing, one of Australia’s flagship investigative current affairs programs. He was a national Walkley Awards finalist in 1995, 1998 (Bay of Secrets), and 2003 (Trading with Iran).

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Devleena Ghosh

Associate Professor, UTS Social Inquiry Program, University of Technology Sydney

Devleena Ghosh teaches in the Social Inquiry program in the Faculty of Communication. Her undergraduate courses include ones on Colonialism and on Ideologies. She has supervised a number of PhDs and Doctorates of Creative Arts to completion. Her research interests lie in the fields of colonial, postcolonial, environmental and global studies, specifically in the Indian Ocean region.

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Stuart Rosewarne

Associate Professor, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney

Stuart Rosewarne’s research and teaching interests are in environmental and ecological economics, critical socialist ecology, international political economy, and the political economy of gender. Other research interests include global Integration, theories of political economy, the nature of work, ecological economics and socialist ecology, environmental economics, feminist political economics, international migration, and international political economy.

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Linda Connor

Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney

Linda Connor is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, taking up the position in January 2009. Her research interests include: the contribution of anthropology and ethnographic method to interdisciplinary and cross-national research in climate change and renewable energy; anthropological study of environmental change and energy transitions; ethnographic research in regional and rural Australian communities; anthropological research on development and environment in Bali, Indonesia, South and Southeast Asia, Germany; and visual anthropology and ethnographic film.

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Partner investigators

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ortwin Renn

Research associates and assistants

Jon Marshall, Kanchi Kohli, Manju Menon, Rebecca Pearse, Katja Mueller, Sharon Davidson

Funding organisation

Australian Research Council (ARC Discovery Projects), 2014-2016