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M.H.J. (Rien) de Bont, MSc

Phd candidate
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My PhD project seeks to make the best of two academic fields in developing ways of acting on today’s sustainability crisis: the interdisciplinary field of Sustainability Transitions Research and the field of New Materialism within contintental philosophy. Sustainability Transitions Research emerged in the early 2000’s its core aim to develop theoretical tools to help policymakers and practitioners break with unsustainable systems of production. The field of New Materialism can be placed in a long-standing tradition of continental philosophy, pushing forward the project of the philosophical schools of critical theory, phenomenology and post-structuralism of the 20th century. Scholars as Levi Bryant, Jane Bennet or Graham Harman problematize today how their precedents have neglected the agency of materiality in understanding change, suggesting alternative theoretical frameworks to re-introduce this theme in philosophical thinking.

I explore a possible synthesis of both fields by focusing on the history and present of tidal and wave energy technologies in Europe. These experimental technologies make use of tidal currents and wave movements to generate renewable electricity. I use the empirical methods of Michel Foucault to map how the direction of engineering of marine energy technologies has been shaped by statist and neo-liberal beliefs over the course of the 20th century. This historical perspective provides the necessary context for studying how practitioners and policymakers working on energy technologies today are guided by deep-rooted understandings of the state. Here, a working hypothesis is that a ‘trace’ of statist and neo-liberal conceptions is still present in action, hampering conditions for transformative change. The project closes by jointly envisaging alternative pathways for the future of marine energy technologies, with the empirical studies as a basis for discussion.  
Last modified:01 March 2024 3.13 p.m.