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Annabel Pinker

Staff picture: Annabel Pinker
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social Scientist
+44 (0) 1224 395 442

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


I am a social anthropologist, with over 10 years of ethnographic research experience based on fieldwork in Ecuador, Peru and the UK. Both in Latin America and in Scotland, my research has explored the entanglements between social, political, and technological change  – particularly in local and community-based settings.

My Ph.D., which I completed at the University of Cambridge in 2010, explored missionary practices, cooperatives, and state formation in the Ecuadorian Andes. My early postdoctoral work, developed at CRESC, University of Manchester and the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, addressed how state power in Peru is being reconfigured through the emergent and creative political practices opened up by decentralisation. During that time I focussed particularly on state relations, regulation, technical expertise and the relationship between social and political life and infrastructural systems – in particular, roads. More recently, between 2015 and 2018, I began developing my ongoing research into the material politics of energy decentralisation, energy infrastructures and 'just' transitions in the Outer Hebrides and in North-east Scotland as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the James Hutton Institute.

I am particularly interested in how land, and existing land practices, relations, and governance figure in transition debates and processes; my recent work on the Isle of Lewis looked at how ambiguities in crofting law have been deployed by local groups in contesting the development of large-scale commercially owned windfarms on the island. I am also exploring how land and non-human ecologies are experienced, storied and transformed in transition times, and regularly engage in developing arts/activist/social science collaborations that aim to support new ways of knowing and being in an era of overlapping crises.

Current research interests

Since 2015, I have been developing research on the social, material, and political processes implied by moves towards energy decentralisation and the promotion of greater local participation in renewable energy production in Scotland. My Leverhulme-funded research followed three wind energy projects at different scales where relations between humans, wind and technology were being actively (re)negotiated in a variety of experimental ways. One fieldwork site was on Scoraig, an off-grid west coast peninsula whose electricity supply is gleaned in large part from handcrafted micro-wind turbines designed and deployed in situ; I also tracked the process of obtaining, installing and integrating into the locality a community-owned wind turbine in north-east Scotland; finally, I followed the unfolding negotiations surrounding the establishment and implementation of a community benefit scheme associated with a windfarm that was set to be amongst Scotland's largest. The research looked at the emergent coalitions of power, technology, expertise and everyday life posed by these socio-technical projects, exploring what kinds of political spaces they open up, and how actors entailed in these projects - including local people, government representatives, planners, and energy consultants - negotiate existing regulatory frameworks in attempting to implement them. This research was supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2015-18), and was also linked to the EU-funded TESS (Towards European Societal Sustainability) project.

Past research

State Power, Decentralisation and Infrastructure in Highland Peru

I carried out postdoctoral work in Peru (2011-2012), as part of the collaborative ethnographic project, ‘Experimental States: Law, Engineering and Regional Government in Cusco’, funded by the ACLS, AHRC, NSF and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. My fieldwork focused on the controversy surrounding plans to construct a road-bypass in the village of Ollantaytambo, near Cusco. This public infrastructure project emerged as a focal point for processes taking place across government scales, at local, provincial, regional, and national levels, enabling me to observe the multiple crisscrossing of competencies, norms, and political projects that are at play within decentralised spaces. In following the controversies that unfolded around the bypass, I explored our hypothesis that the regulatory ambiguities entailed in a multiple, distributed state became a site not only of confusion, but also of opportunity and experimental political practice

Missionary Practices and Social Change

I am completing a collaborative project concerning missionary practices and social change amongst the Achuar, based on recent fieldwork in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This project has been funded by Abya-Yala, Quito, and builds on my doctoral research (2005-10), which explored missionary practices, local cooperative development and state formation in the Ecuadorian Andes.<


  • Currie, M.; Pinker, A.; McKee, A. (2021) Do community buyouts of private land(scapes) lead to spatial justice The case of Lewis, Scotland, Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference 2021.
  • Salt, D.; Polhill, G.; Craig, T.; Wilson, R.; Colley, K.; Pinker, A.; Scalco, A.; Muhammad, M. (2021) Modelling coconstructed scnearios of district heat network adoption in Aberdeen, Social Simulation Conference 2021, Online, 20-24 September 2021.
  • Dinnie, E.; Msika, J.; Pinker, A.; Holstead, K.L.; Fischer, A. (2015) Transition and tradition: how are low-carbon, community-based initiatives contributing to continuity and change in rural communities., XXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, 'Places of possibility? Rural Societies in a Neoliberal World', Aberdeen, 18-21 August 2015.

  • Colley, K.; Wilson, R.; Craig, T.; Polhill, G.; Salt, D.; Pinker, A.; Somervail, P. (2021) SMARTEES: Modelling household uptake of a city-wide district heat network in Aberdeen, Scotland. Virtual poster for Behavior, Environment and Climate Change Conference 2021, Virtual poster for Behavior, Environment and Climate Change Conference 2021, 8-10 November 2021, Online
  • McKee, A.; McMorran, R.; Currie, M.; Pinker, A.; Meador, E.; Markantoni, M. (2018) What does rural community resilience mean to you? Results from a Delphi survey of experts in Scotland., 5th Nordic Rural Research Conference, Vingsted, Denmark, 14-16 May 2018. Conference Book, Challenged Ruralities: Nordic Welfare States under Pressure, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, p41. Abstract.
  • Polhill, J.G.; Craig, T.; Fischer, A.; Dinnie, L.; Pinker, A.; Msika, J. (2016) Sustainable lifestyle initiatives in Europe and Scotland: The GLAMURS and TESS European Projects., The James Hutton Institute Open Day, Aberdeen, 10 September 2016. (Poster)
  • Holstead, K.L.; Msike, J.; Dinnie, L.; Pinker, A. (2015) Huntly and District Development Trust., Can the Transition to a Sustainable Future be Locally Led? Conference, The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon and Innovation, Edinburgh, 27 May 2015. Poster.

Printed from /staff/annabel-pinker on 15/04/24 02:31:39 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.