At the German coalface: Interdisciplinary collaboration between anthropology and journalism
For an understanding of thecurrent ‘coal conundrum’ and the German Energiewende, we applied a collaborative research method involving, anthropological and journalistic practices in villages in East Germany, where the expansion of open-cut lignite mines is contested. We conducted an in-depth study of the local socio-political effects of changing energy production forms at the coalface of prevailing and transforming energy production sites, with human life-worlds as a focal point. Working interdisciplinary with methods of radio journalism and social anthropology helped to provide insights into how national agendas based on political will, techno-economical parameters, social life-worlds and the factor of time intersect. Despite commonalities between journalism and anthropology, this approach to energy research posed methodological challenges. Our work lead to questions of how to collect and make sense of scientifically sustainable information that would allow us to understand the impact of the Energiewende. It resulted in reflections of the limits of building trust, eliciting quotable statements, dealing with scripted narratives, our own roles as interlocutors, the limits of interdisciplinary work and the impact of these factors on interpreting information in larger contexts of global climate debates and energy policies.