Energethics Article Addresses Methodology

Energethics published their first article “Rethinking Access. Key Methodological Challenges in Studying Energy Companies” in the journal "Energy Research and Social Science". The article is available online.

Front page of article
Energy Research and Social Science

Main content

Researching energy companies today is a challenging task as energy is deeply embedded within society. In trying to gain access to studying energy companies, the Energethics research team came to question the very concept of “access”. Our expectations of what “access” meant and required was a methodological challenge in itself; what can be considered ‘good’ access for a social scientist in this research field? And which methodological measures can make us better equipped to understand the role of energy companies? These are some of the questions that the article seeks to answer.


Understanding the role of large energy corporations in society is a crucial, yet challenging task for the social science of energy. Ethnographic methods hold potential for plying into corporations’ own self-representations, to reveal the relations of power and politics that determine flows of energy and extractive capital at the global and local level. Ethnography help us move beyond structural analyses, to locate the agents and processes at work within economies of energy production, and identify tensions and dynamics both within the corporation and at the interface with society. We argue that a multi-method and reflexive approach can help social scientists reflect on frictions in corporate encounters, and more importantly that attention to frictions is in fact a gateway to gain new insights about the field. In our research project about Norwegian energy companies and their corporate social responsibility work when ‘going global’, applying a multi-method made us question dominant assumptions within anthropology of what constitutes “access”. We discuss how multiple approaches to “access”, which takes into account the positionality of the researcher, fluidity of research fields along with attention to power dynamics can shape the sort of knowledge that is produced when studying energy companies.