Modernity, Energy and Power. An Eco-energy and Cultural History of Southern Europe

International Conference

Thursday, 16, and Friday, 17 November 2023 - Check programme
Gabriel Cualladó, Minero asturiano (La Felguera, Asturias) (Asturian Miner, La Felguera, Asturias), 1958 / Copia posterior, 1985. Museo Reina Sofía
Gabriel Cualladó, Minero asturiano (La Felguera, Asturias) (Asturian Miner, La Felguera, Asturias), 1958 / Copia posterior, 1985. Museo Reina Sofía
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía; Carlos III University, Madrid (Humanities Department: Philosophy, Language and Literature); the Ecological Technics and Humanities (THECO) research group from the Carlos III University, Madrid (Project 101086202 - Speak4Nature – HORIZON -MSCA-2021-SE-01. T), and CSIC (the research project “Energy Humanities: Energy and Sociocultural Imaginaries between the Industrial Revolution and Eco-social Crisis” (PID2020-113272RA-I00, HUMENERGE)
Organising committee
Adrián Almazán (Carlos III University, Madrid), Alberto Berzosa (Autonomous University of Madrid), Carolina Espinoza (Museo Reina Sofía), Alberto García Aznar (Museo Reina Sofía), Germán Labrador (Museo Reina Sofía), Mariona Peraire (Museo Reina Sofía) and Jaime Vindel (CSIC)

Analysing, in a way that is both transdisciplinary and genealogical, the experience of twentieth-century European dictatorships and political regimes has become an urgent undertaking in a context shaped by the rise of the extreme right, the return of war on European soil in Ukraine and our societies’ reliance on fossil fuels, which trigger anthropogenic global warming and the future availability of which is in jeopardy. With the aim of contributing to rethinking and intervening in this scenario, the international conference Modernity, Energy and Power. An Eco-energy and Cultural History of Southern Europe examines the historical relationship between colonialism, authoritarianism and fossil fuels from the spheres of ecological and energy humanities.

Placing the stress on southern Europe, these two days analyse developmentalist projects in the aftermath of the Second World War and their link to the implementation of a fossil metabolism, in addition to the appearance of alternative energy imaginaries — hydroelectric or nuclear energy, for instance — in a period conditioned by the global expansion of neo-capitalism and Cold War-induced tensions. Such a focal point involves considering the colonial vector that runs through energy imaginaries of industrial modernity, stretching back to their emergence in the nineteenth century, their decline on account of the twentieth century’s fascist regimes and their continuation through the violence inherent in the most recent extractivism.

What is the link that exists between different forms of modern power and the energy regimes of industrial modernity? To what degree are energies offering an alternative to fossil modernity driven by the transformations needed to tackle the ecological emergency? What can we learn from the political history of energy in today’s context to face the current ecological and democratic crossroads?

With the aim of reviewing the concepts explored in this conference and to contribute new definitions in relation to critical ecology, an editathon workshop on Wikipedia is organised and open for participation from 13 to 19 November.


Santiago Alba Rico is a writer and essayist with a philosophy degree from Madrid’s Complutense University. In the 1980s, he was a screenwriter on Spain’s television programme La bola de cristal (The Crystal Ball) and has published numerous books on fields spanning philosophy, politics, anthropology and literature. Furthermore, he has written pieces for a number of magazines and media outlets, among them Gara, Público, Ara and El País, and has published three children’s stories and a stage play. Notable among his most recent publications are España (Lengua de trapo, 2021), Ser o no ser (un cuerpo) (Seix Barral, 2017) and Islamofobia: nosotros, los otros, el miedo (Icaria, 2015).(Icaria, 2015).

Adrián Almazán holds a PhD in Philosophy and a degree in Physics from the Autonomous University of Madrid, and is a Philosophy lecturer at the Carlos III University in Madrid. He has published Técnica y tecnología. Cómo conversar con un tecnolófilo (Taugenit, 2021) and contributed to the collective book Decrecimiento. Del qué al cómo (Icaria editorial, 2023), as well as writing different articles on the relationship between technology and politics from an eco-social perspective and about new rurality as a civilising alternative.

Vanessa Badagliacca is an Art History researcher and teacher. She holds a PhD in Contemporary Art History from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, with her field of research and curatorial practice encompassing the relationships between plant life, environmental issues and artistic practices from the perspective of science, eco-criticism and new materialisms, focusing on the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. She is currently a member of the research group Desnortadas. Territorios del género en la creación artística contemporánea (Disorientated. Gender Territories in Contemporary Artistic Creation), from the Art History Department at Málaga University.

Gemma Barricarte is an architect and resident artist-researcher at Medialab Matadero. Under the pseudonym gemma bahhr, she develops her project Urbanismo Fósil: hauntologías metabólicas y nuevas ecologías energéticas (Fossil Urbanism: Metabolic Hauntologies and New Energy Ecologies), exploring processes of urbanisation in dialogue with energy, political and cultural ecologies.

Susana Batel holds a PhD in Social, Community and Environmental Psychology from the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL). Her research examines, from a critical, interdisciplinary perspective, the relationship between people, territory and climate crisis and, more specifically, the energy changes needed to reach carbon neutrality, as well as issues linked to socio-environmental justice and political participation. She is the co-editor of the journal Papers on Social Representations and is currently an assistant researcher at the Centre of Psychological Research and Social Intervention at ISCTE-IUL.

Alberto Berzosa holds a PhD in Art History and Theory. He is the author of the books Materiales para una utopía ecologista. Cartografía de Archivos del movimiento ecologista en España (Icaria, 2023) and Cine y sexopolítica (Brumaria, 2020), and has curated exhibitions in different spaces, including La Casa Encendida, MACBA and IVAM. He is co-director of the film Memorias de Ultramar (2021), and is currently a lecturer at the Autonomous University of Madrid and a member of the Management Committee of the COST Action TRACTS.

Isabel Carvalho works in the visual arts, writing and book publishing. Her editorial projects as a founder and/or editor notably include Barco de Ferro, encompassing art and design practices, and the publication Leonorana, which focuses on artistic and transdisciplinary research. Her career as an artist is characterised by an experimentation between the arts, science and speculative knowledge, and she explores issues related to the materiality of language, forms of non-verbal expression and sensibility towards preserving ecosystems of socialisation inhabited by humans and non-humans.

Francesco D´Amaro is a post-doctoral researcher on the María Zambrano programme and holds an international PhD cum laude from the Universitat de València. He conducts his academic practice as a researcher and teacher between Italy, Spain and Portugal, his work centring on the political history of the environment, with a focus on the history of the control of environmental resources for exploitation. Currently, his research deals with the tensions caused by hydraulic and union policies during Francoism and the formation and consolidation of conservationist action, ecology-driven social mobilisation and the influence of economic sectors on governmental decision-making.

Carolina Espinoza is a journalist who holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Spain’s National University of Distance Education. She has worked for different media outlets in Chile and Spain, where she has lived since the year 2000. Her research themes include exile and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. She is currently an advisor to the Study Centre from the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.

Miguel Fernández Labayen is a full professor in the Communication Department at the Carlos III University in Madrid and a member of the University Institute of Spanish Cinema. Currently, he is a head researcher on the project “El documental institucional y el cine de aficionado coloniales: Análisis y usos" (The Colonial Institutional Documentary and Amateur Cinema: Analyses and Uses), funded by Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation/National Research Agency.

Alberto García Aznar develops his research work in the sphere of sound studies, placing the stress on the politics of sound, listening and attention, in both academic and non-academic contexts. In his doctoral thesis, currently in progress, he explores the intersections between sound studies and experiences of damage. Moreover, he carries out his artistic and curatorial endeavours in sound art and experimental music, and is currently the beneficiary of a training grant within the Study Centre from the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.

Loreto García Saiz is a pre-doctoral researcher and a professor in the Communication Department at Carlos III University, as well as a member of the research group TECMERIN (Television-Cinema: Memory, Representation and Industry), founded at the same university. She is currently writing her PhD thesis on the “sea of plastic” as a media infrastructure with an FPU grant.

Germán Labrador is a lecturer at Princeton University and an expert in Iberian Cultural Studies. He has also been director of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department, where he currently coordinates the Connective Tissue programme within the Museo’s Study Centre.

Brais Lamela studied comparative literature and history at Cambridge University (UK) and Brown University (USA). As a writer, he has been honoured with different literary awards, for instance the Minerva, Ánxel Casal and Xuventude Crea Awards. At the present time, he is studying a PhD in Literature at Yale University, where he is also a lecturer. No queda nadie (Cuatro lunas, 2023) is his first published work.

Pablo Martínez works as a Margarita Salas researcher (2023–2024) at CSIC’s History Institute. He has served as the head of Public Programmes at MACBA (2016–2021), head of CA2M’s Education and Public Activities (2009–2016) and as an associate professor in the Fine Arts Faculty of Madrid’s Complutense University (2012–2015). His research and practice are currently aligned towards the environmental crisis and the role of the contemporary museum in building eco-social institutionalism, a new hegemony that makes a less violent and fairer transition possible.

Ana Naseiro has managed the Archives of Spain’s General State Administration since 2007 and performs her duties as an advisor in electronic administration and document management at the University of Alcalá. She has spent eleven years in the General Archive of the Alcalá de Henares Administration, working on multiple projects around modern and contemporary documentary holdings as the head of Description, Assessment and Access, in addition to being in charge of the Administrative and Historical Archive and a Library and Publications advisor at the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office.

Daniel Pérez-Zapico is a historian and Juan de la Cierva-Incorporación post-doctoral researcher in the Contemporary History Department at the Autonomous University of Madrid. His interests include the social, cultural and political history of electricity and electrification, the cultural history of technology, the critical history of infrastructures and the history of interactions between religion and technology. He has recently coordinated the volume “Shifting Narratives of Electricity and Energy in Periods of Transition”, published in the Journal of Energy History/Revue d'Histoire de l'Énergie (No. 8, January 2023).

Maria do Carmo Piçarra is an associate researcher at ICNOVA/FCSH and assistant lecturer at the Autonomous University of Lisbon. She is also a film curator and has published, among other books and articles in science journals, Salazar vai ao cinema I e II (2006, 2011), Azuis ultramarinos. Propaganda colonial e censura no cinema do Estado Novo (2015), Projectar a ordem. Cinema do Povo e propaganda salazarista 1935-1954 (2020) and Vento Leste “Luso-Orientalismo(s)” nos Filmes da Ditadura (2023). She also coordinated, with Jorge António, the trilogy Angola, o nascimento de uma nação (2013, 2014, 2015) and, with Teresa Castro, the volume (Re)Imagining African Independence. Film, Visual Arts and the Fall of the Portuguese Empire (2017).

Julia Ramírez-Blanco is a Ramón y Cajal researcher in the Art History Department at Madrid’s Complutense University. Her research explores the crossroads between art, utopia and activism, and she is the author of Artistic Utopias of Revolt. Claremont Road, Reclaim the Streets, and the City of Sol (Palgrave, 2018), 15M. El tiempo de las plazas (Alianza, 2021) and Amigos, disfraces y comunas. Las hermandades de artistas del siglo XIX (Cátedra, 2022).

Eduardo Romero is a writer. His last three books Autobiografía de Manuel Martínez (Pepitas de calabaza, 2019), En mar abierto (Pepitas de calabaza, 2021) and ¿Cómo va a ser la montaña un dios? (Pepitas de calabaza, 2022) are a round trip through two worlds separated by thousands of kilometres but interconnected by different threads: coal and mining, capital and port logistics, migration and exile. He has also written numerous books on the critique of migratory policies, and is the author of the story Naiyiria (Cambalache, 2016), illustrated by Amelia Celaya, and La nueva normalidad (Cambalache, 2021), a booklet around the pandemic.

Emilio Santiago holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and is a scientist at the Institute of Language, Literature and Anthropology from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). He is head researcher on the research project “Energy Humanities: Energy and Sociocultural Imaginaries Between the Industrial Revolution and Eco-Social Crisis” (PID2020-113272RA-I00, HUMENERGE) and the author, among other works, of the essays Rutas sin mapa (Catarata, 2015) and Contra el mito del colapso ecológico (Arpa, 2023), and co-author of ¿Qué hacer en caso de incendio? Manifiesto por el Green New Deal, with Héctor Tejero (Capitán Swing, 2019).

Pedro Tomé holds a PhD from the University of Salamanca with the thesis Ecological Anthropology. His work focuses on political and cultural ecology and specifically analysis processes that condition environment-related social practices, and he was co-head researcher on the R&D Research Project “The Evolution of Conceptions of Nature in Protected Interior Areas”. Since 2005, he has been a tenured scientist at CSIC, where he has coordinated the publication Disparidades. Revista de Antropología since 2015. Furthermore, he is part of scientific journal committees in Mexico, Portugal and Spain, and is a lecturer on the PhD programme in Sociology and Anthropology at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Giovanbattista Tusa is a philosopher who works at the Nova Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA) from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, where he coordinates the research programme X-CENTRIC FUTURES. His recent publications most notably include The End, a co-authorship with Alain Badiou (2019), and the books PPPP. Pier Paolo Pasolini philosopher (2022) and Dispositif. A Cartography (2023). He is also the co-editor, with Michael Marder, of Contemporanea. A Glossary for the 21st Century, due to be published in 2024. Furthermore, he directs the series Futures. Of Philosophy on the Planetary Conversations platform, conceived in a collaboration with the series of publications The Philosophical Salon, published by the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Channels project.

Paolo Villa is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pavia. He gained a PhD in Film Studies in 2020 from the University of Udine, where he worked as a post-doctoral researcher for the European project “ViCTOR-E, Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW” and where he also currently teaches the History of Photography. He has published the book La camera di Stendhal. Il film sull’arte in italia (1945-1970) (Edizione ETS, 2022), and his main research fields are Italian documentary and industrial film and the relationship between cinema and the visual arts.

Jaime Vindel is a researcher on the Ramón y Cajal Grants Programme from the History Institute at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), where he co-directs the research project “Energy Humanities: Energy and Sociocultural Imaginaries Between the Industrial Revolution and Eco-Social Crisis” (PID2020-113272RA-I00, HUMENERGE). He was coordinator of the “Cultural Ecologies” block in MACBA’s Independent Studies Programme (2017–2018 and 2019–2020 editions) and is the author of books such as Estética fósil. Imaginarios de la energía y crisis ecosocial (Arcadia, 2020) and Cultura fósil. Arte, cultura y política entre la Revolución industrial y el calentamiento global (Akal, 2023).

Diego Zorita gained a PhD in Philosophy from the Autonomous University of Madrid with a thesis which put forward a conceptual analysis of experimental poets during the late Francoism period. His research pivots around the relationship between literature and society, and he is interested specifically in the social and political uses of literature in twentieth-century Spain. He has published articles on the cultural and political significance of the avant-garde and the transformation of the poet figure in cybernetic poetry.


Actividad pasada Thursday, 16 November 2023
Session 1. Iberian Environmental Studies and Energy Modernity

9am - 11:30am New Narratives and Sources for a History of Energy Modernity in Spain
Round-table discussion
— With Ana Naseiro, Daniel Pérez-Zapico and Jaime Vindel. Moderated by: Pablo Martínez

11:30am – 12pm Break

12pm – 2pm Geographies of Fossil Modernity During Francoism
Round-table discussion
— With Adrián Almazán, Gemma Barricarte and Emilio Santiago. Moderated by: Julia Ramírez Blanco

4pm – 6pm Fossil Fuel Alternatives? Imaginaries, Utopias and Transitions Around Nuclear and Renewable Energy
Round-table discussion
— With Alberto Berzosa, Vanessa Badagliacca, Isabel Carvalho (Leonorana) and Julia Ramírez-Blanco. Moderated by: Alberto García Aznar

6pm - 6:40pm Ecological Thought on Wikipedia
— Conducted by Carolina Espinoza (via video conference)

Carlos III University, Madrid – Faculty of Humanities, Communication and Documentation (Campus Getafe UC3M), Sala 17.2.75 (Pilar Azcárate Room), and online platform

72 people


Free, until full capacity is reached

Actividad pasada Friday, 17 November 2023
Session 2. Extractive Politics and Energy Poetics

09:30am - 09:45am Presentation

09:45 am - 11:45am Water Politics and Imaginaries

Round-table discussion
— With Susana Batel, Francesco D’Amaro, Pedro Tomé and Paolo Villa. Moderated by: Germán Labrador

Language: Spanish and English with simultaneous interpreting

11:45am – 12pm Break

12pm – 2pm Colonial Imaginaries and Energy Modernity
Round-table discussion
— With Giovanbattista Tusa, Maria do Carmo Piçarra, Miguel Fernández Labayen, Loreto García Saiz and Germán Labrador. Moderated by: Alberto Berzosa

Language: Spanish and English with simultaneous interpreting

Museo Reina Sofía, Sabatini Building, Auditorium and online platform


144 people


Free, until full capacity is reached. Tickets may be collected at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 14 November (a maximum of 2 per person). 20% of the visitor-capacity will be reserved for attendance without ticket collection on the day of the activity

Actividad pasada Friday, 17 November 2023
Session 3. Images and Narrations of Energy Modernity

4pm – 6pm The Critique of Progress: Fictions, Documents and Narratives
Round-table discussion
— With Brais Lamela, Eduardo Romero and Diego Zorita. Moderated by: Adrián Almazán

6pm – 7pm Nuclear Unease: Uranium Bodies and Mutant Memory

Ana Vaz. Atomic Garden
Brazil, Portugal, 2018, colour, sound, Original version in English, 16mm transferred to DA, 8’

Sandra Lahire. Plutonium Blonde
UK, 1987, colour, sound-on-film, Original version in English, 16mm transferred to DA, 15’

Sandra Lahire. Uranium Hex
UK, 1987, colour, magnetic sound, Original version in English, ratio 4:3, 16mm transferred to DA, 11’

Sandra Lahire. Serpent River
UK, 1989, colour, stereo sound, Original version in English, 16mm transferred to DA, 30’

7pm - 7:30pm Break

7:30pm – 9pm Delibes and the End of the Neolithic: A Reflection on Nostalgia and Progress
— Conducted by Santiago Alba Rico, in conversation with Eduardo Romero

Museo Reina Sofía, Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform

200 people


Free, until full capacity is reached. Tickets may be collected at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 14 November (a maximum of 2 per person). 20% of the visitor-capacity will be reserved for attendance without ticket collection on the day of the activity