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Sociotechnical imaginaries (STIs) are widely used in the ERSS literature, but their origins in the field of science and technology studies (STS), and the implications of their migration into ERSS, are not well theorized or thoroughly appreciated. We take as our starting point that the STI concept is an offshoot of co-production, the simultaneous production of natural and social order. We resituate STIs in relation to that origin story within co-productionist STS to enhance its analytic power in relation to energy research. We parse STIs along three dimensions of co-productionist analysis: integration, symmetry, and reflexivity. We then contrast the analytic purchase offered by STIs, grounded in co-production, with another popular STS approach, actor-network theory (ANT), by looking at two exemplary cases of the energy transition in the global South. Through these case studies, centering on the introduction of solar power in Senegal and India, we argue that a better theorized invocation of STIs, as mechanisms of co-production, can detect aspects of sociotechnical transitions that remain obscure unless they are illuminated through the meaning-making dimension of STIs. We use STIs to show that in global transitions to sustainability the discourse of renewable energy has privileged the transition’s material and technological dimensions over its cultural and sociopolitical ones. In particular, the STI lens brings to light alternative visions of sustainable lives based on ideas and practices of renewal that long predated the arrival of solar power, and are at risk of dying in the new political economy of renewables.


Jasanoff, Sheila, and Hilton R. Simmet. "Renewing the future: Excluded imaginaries in the global energy transition." Energy Research & Social Science 80 (October 2021): 102205.