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The Constitution of the Potential in the Air: The Case of Wind Power Development in Penghu, Taiwan


This dissertation examines the ways in which the potentiality of the wind is constituted by looking at various events that happened surrounding the local government's endeavor to establish a public-private energy company in Penghu, the archipelagic county of Taiwan. The Penghu government wished to turn the strong winter wind, which has long been seen as a barrier to local economic prosperity, into a green energy source to bring wealth to the archipelago and its inhabitants. In order to realize the potential in the air, the local government sought to establish a public-private energy company that was expected to share financial profit, coming from the sale of the wind-generated electricity, with local residents who are its shareholders. Drawing on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with local villagers, government officials, and employees of the power plant operated by a state-owned utility company in Penghu, the dissertation analyzes the archipelagic county government's endeavors to establish the wind energy company and local residents' understandings of, and response to it, in order to explore how it does or does not produce the condition in which the potentiality of the wind to be profitable electricity is constituted. This dissertation investigates how the Penghu government produces fantastic storylines, constructing a new meaning for, and a financial expectation of, the wind in order to attract local inhabitants to invest in the energy company, and examines how those narratives are maintained and/or destroyed among these residents by and through events that happen around nonhumans, both material and immaterial. The dissertation argues that in Penghu, the wind "comes to have" its potentiality to become a renewable energy source, bringing wealth to local residents through the imbroglios of human and nonhuman entities surrounding the establishment of the energy company. It thus challenges and rethinks the taken-for-granted ideas hidden in natural and social scientific understanding of potentiality (of the wind) 1) as an inherent property and 2) whose realization only depends on human interventions.

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