Energy | Transition. Negotiating Transformation Processes in German-Polish Upper Lusatia.
Research: Katharina Schuchardt
Project duration: 01/2020-
The territory of Lausitz (Lusatia) stretches along both sides of the German-Polish border and is situated, since 1945, at the periphery of the respective countries. Since the 19th century, brown coal (lignite) mining has been characteristic for the area and has been providing a livelihood to many inhabitants of the region. Most of the regional employment is connected to industries directly and indirectly dependent on brown coal mining. Because of its long-time economic importance, it can justly be interpreted as a key element in constructing a local, collective identity. On both sides of the border, at the Saxon open surface mining areas Reichswalde and Nochten as well as at the Polish open surface mining Turów, urgent questions need to be answered. They concern the future handling of energy supply and the future structuring of the region in general. Due to the decision to phase out brown coal energy supply until 2038, the German side faces a sweeping process of restructuring and transformation that will affect everyday life of many people. On the other side, Poland still draws 77 per cent of its electricity from coal, comprising 31 per cent from brown coal. In this way, Turów on the Polish side constitutes a mainstay in the present and envisaged energy supply until 2044. Apart from this, it also provides a job perspective to the local population of this region. Nevertheless, in the long run, the Polish State must face questions concerning the future energy supply as well, as the climate protection goals of EU include the complete abolition of fossil energy production until 2050.
Numerous research works focus in this context on processes of structural distribution and participatory approaches. Differently, this project explores the dealings with fossil energy supply from an emic perspective, i.e. the point of view of the inhabitants and actors of the (border) region. In this way, a subject-centered perspective will be taken, bringing into focus the men and women with their experiences and perceptions, and opening up a perspective “from below”: How are diverging perceptions of the region in the time after the brown coal negotiated individually? How is the upcoming transformation being evaluated, and to what extend are new narratives emerging? In which way are they influenced by historical experiences of transformation processes? In the context of neighborhood, which role is played by mutual perception, configuration, and interaction to a subjective perspective in and on the border region?
The project is designed transnationally. In the sense of Entangled History, it takes a twofold approach: Next to individual evaluations in both countries, the intention is also to carve out interferences and interconnections within the border region. Thinking beyond the perspective of the national state promises to uncover such interdependencies and to shed light on the transfer of knowledge in border regions.