Epistemic Turbulence in Renewable Energy Engineering on the Chinese “Belt and Road”
Energy issues constitute a nexus of technological, political and economic challenges, particularly in light of the global climate crisis. Chinese banks and corporations, guided by a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure investment program called the “Belt and Road Initiative,” now account for one-third of global investment in renewable energy. In this ethnographic study, we explore the professional knowledge and practices of Chinese, Israeli and European engineers working on a pumped-storage hydropower project in Israel with financial and technical backing from Chinese energy firms. We examine how these experts construct and maintain a set of epistemic cultural practices within transnational flows of capital, technology, materials and expertise. Situating our findings within Science and Technology Studies (STS), we use the hydrological engineering concept of “turbulence” as a metaphor for the rapid transnational movements of engineering concepts and personnel in the renewable energy sector.
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