The Transnational Institute (TNI) is issuing an open call for essays, accessible papers, infographics and artistic collaborations for its twelfth State of Power report to be launched in January 2024. The focus for our twelfth edition is on energy. Deadline for pitches: 5 June
TNI’s annual State of Power reports have, since their launch in 2012, become a must-see reference point for citizens, activists and academics concerned with understanding the nature of power in our globalised world in order to inform struggles for justice. With a mixture of compelling infographics and insightful essays, State of Power has examined different dimensions of power (economic, political, social), exposed the key actors who exercise power, and highlighted movements of counter-power seeking to transform our world. State of Power reports have also been widely praised for their inspiring essays and brilliant art.
The synergy between the words ‘energy’ and ‘power’ highlights the way energy has always been about power. Energy provides power to enable daily life, to facilitate work, to drive our global economies, but more importantly it is also dependent on a web of power relations that determine where it is sourced, its infrastructure, who has access, who benefits and how it shapes our society and the environment. Our current energy system has failed to be equitable or sustainable. It is not available to millions of people, it has driven conflict and war and it is destroying the ecosystem on which we depend. We urgently need to remake our energy system to work for everyone and the planet, but first we need to understand how it works, who benefits and loses, and what unjust power relations are embedded in our current energy system that need to be challenged. Otherwise we risk travelling down dead-ends or repeating the same errors of our current failed energy system. We then need proposals for an energy system that would redistribute power and embed justice and sustainability.
For its 2024 edition, TNI is therefore interested in proposals that explore energy and power in creative ways that help deepen understanding and improve social movement strategies. We need to understand who controls energy, how that entrenched power shapes society and our environment, what is changing (or not), how it can be challenged, and how social movements can gain power over energy and harness it to advance social and environmental justice. We welcome reflections from different disciplinary fields in order to create as rounded a picture energy as possible. We are also interested in producing some infographics or artwork that help penetrate the key agencies of state and corporate power and our own power to wrest back control.
In sum, our ultimate goal is not analysis for its own sake but rather to empower activists and movements to more successfully challenge, confront and overcome entrenched power and transform energy systems to work for everyone.
These are some questions – but not an exclusive list – that we are interested in exploring and understanding better. In every case, we are interested in how energy relates to power. We are interested in analysis that helps activists see the big picture or tackles areas that are not yet properly understood or explored:
- Who controls energy today? Which corporations? Which states? Which corporate-state alliances underpin this control? How does this impact on access to energy?
- Why has Big Oil maintained its power despite the obvious impacts it will have for all humanity? Is it all down to the power of money or are there other unexplored reasons for their power? Which other corporate players have obstructed the development of clean energy technologies and alternative energy systems? And how have they done it?
- What are the strategies of accumulation of different capitalist actors (e.g. producer companies, traders, investors) that profit from the current energy system and how can these actors’ power to uphold their strategies be effectively challenged?
- What role does international law, such as investment protection or intellectual property rights, play in entrenching the current energy model, and how could it be changed to deliver a just energy transition?
- How is the global energy model – and its changing structure - shaping geopolitics and war? What will the energy transition mean for prospects for war and conflict?
- How are we to understand the global geopolitical role of major economic powers such as US and China, other oil states such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, as well as the alliance of OPEC in the global energy system - including the role they play in aiding or obstructing an energy transition?
- How are we to understand the role and power of state-owned energy firms? How do they differ to private corporate firms? What different strategies are needed to challenge, confront, and transform state-owned energy companies?
- How is digitalisation reshaping power in energy markets? Who benefits? Who is impacted?
- How do different energy sources and models impact on the power of labour, communities, gender and North-South relations? How do we best address energy poverty and colonialism?
- What will happen to Big Oil and the other dominant capitalist actors that control energy systems if we transition away from fossil-fuel development? Are there opportunities to use the transition to challenge and undermine concentrated corporate power?
- Is renewable energy different in power relations to fossil-fuel based energy systems, and if not, how could it be? Who is positioned to benefit from a transition to renewable energy? Which corporate sectors and which states are positioned to be more powerful and what are the implications?
- How are the emerging markets in rare earths and minerals needed for renewable energy (eg lithium, cobalt, rare earths, nickel) shaping power relations including land ownership, labour, corporate power, community accountability?
- What transformations do we need in energy systems to make them more universally accessible, democratic, accountable, equitable and ecologically sustainable – nationally and transnationally? What forms of finance, ownership and governance are needed? What are the strengths and weaknesses of state-led versus community-led energy models in challenging entrenched power?
- Which transition-related technologies hold the most potential to build just and democratic energy systems with the least environmental harm?
- How can the power of those forces in control of the energy system today be strategically challenged and by whom? Which types of alliances should be built and how? How do we best steer a path away from a corporate-led or state-extractive energy future?
- What role should international institutions like the UN play to facilitate, enforce and fund globally just energy transitions?
As well as analysis, TNI would also be interested in specific case-studies that draw out general lessons as well as stories and artwork and films that help us understand the energy and power in creative and imaginative ways.
TNI has a small number of grants of 250-500 euros – to be prioritized for activists with low-incomes and/or working in the Global South. Please mention in your submission if you wish to apply for this grant which will be awarded if your essay is published in the main report.
Format and Style
TNI produces its essays in the format of a long-read, illustrated by international artists. We also try to syndicate the pieces to other online magazines to maximise readership and have also produced a podcast and a webinar based on the series. We are therefore looking for pieces written as journalistic long-reads that make information accessible and that can be pitched to other media.
For both essays and podcasts, the following are important for communication:
• concrete examples
• journalistic techniques
We also welcome suggestions of photos, videos, artwork, songs and other ways to illustrate essays. You can see examples of this here. We discourage the overuse of academic jargon literature analysis and academic debates that mean little to the public.
While essays are the main focus of the report, TNI is also open to proposals for artistic explorations that examine the same themes that could accompany and complement the essays. The process will be different for these, so please just email stateofpower AT tni.org with any proposals or suggestions.
While TNI is proud of our high standard of scholarship, this call does not require any specific academic qualifications. Contributors to earlier editions of State of Power have included students, professors, well-known authors, journalists, activists and artists - all at different stages of their careers and lives. TNI particularly welcomes submissions by women, young scholars/artists and people based in the Global South.
The final report will be made up of a mixture of essays from this open call and a number of pre-commissioned essays, which will also be packaged into a podcast and webinar(s). We have designed a process to feature what we consider the best essays in the main report. The decision on which papers are featured will be decided by an Editorial Panel made up of the Director and the editors of the report. The selection process will follow three stages:
1. In the first stage, researchers will be asked to send to firstname.lastname@example.org a:
a) pitch for your long-read essay
b) a short bio and
c) some links to previous work. It will help your application if your previous work is not just limited to academic texts but includes some more accessible journalistic pieces.
Pitches should include:
• the main argument you are trying to make
• how it relates to and helps us understand energy
• the key points you would include
• stories or examples that illustrate it
The pitch can be based on existing papers or be provisional ideas of what you hope to explore. If you would like to apply for the grant – available to low-income participants –please indicate this at this stage.
2. Those whose pitches are chosen will be asked to submit an essay. The top 4-5 essays will be selected for the report by the Editorial Panel.
3. The selected essays will go through a final round of revisions based on feedback by the Editorial Panel, and subject to final copyedit.
4. Essays that do not make the top 8-10– and are considered good essays by the Editorial Panel - will be available as downloadable PDFs linked from the main report. Grants unfortunately won’t be available though for the essays that don’t appear in the main report.
- Pitches and essays can be written in English, Spanish or French
- They should be emailed to email@example.com
- Pitches must be a maximum of 800 words. They do not need to be of continuous prose but must capture the main arguments of the essay and can be expanded outlines. Bios should be 200 words or less.
- Final Essay length: 3000-5000 words. The upper word limit is strictly applied.
- Style: TNI has five basic criteria for its research and publications that will also be used to assess the pitches and essays:
- Credible: Well researched and evidence-based
- Accessible: Readable by a broad non-specialist audience (in other words please avoid too much academic jargon) and try to use stories, examples
- Additional: Adds depth, new insights or detail to existing knowledge/research
- Radical: Tackles the structural roots of critical issues
- Propositional: Does not just critique, but also puts forward just alternatives where relevant
- TNI's styleguide can be found here in English and here in Spanish
- Do not include references in brackets within the text eg (Abramson, 2011) in the academic style. As we first publish online and then as a printable PDF, please hyperlink the text pointing to the reference AND provide an endnote with the full reference in Harvard style. You may also provide a bibliography at end of essay instead.
- Please do not overdo it on the endnotes (no more than 40 for each essay) – use it mainly for referring to facts/evidence that may be surprising, questioned or challenged.
- Please send as .doc file or .docx file or Open/Libre Office equivalent for written texts, pdf for artistic submissions
- The decision of the Editorial Panel is final. If your pitch or essay is chosen, please be ready to respond to peer reviews and copy editing comments based on the timeline below.
Submission of pitches
Pitches approved for submission of full essay
Submission of full essay
Decision on whether essay approved for final report or published as PDF
Review, second draft, final copyedits
Preparation of promotion, syndication etc
|End of January
Publication of essays