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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 around 10 years of ethnographic research experience based on fieldwork in Ecuador, Peru and the UK. I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2015-18) in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group at the James Hutton Institute.

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, has addressed how state power in Peru is being reconfigured through the emergent and creative political practices opened up by decentralisation.

I am currently developing research on the material politics of energy decentralisation in Scotland. 

My key research interests include the relationship between social and political life and infrastructural systems – in particular, roads and renewable energy schemes; state relations, regulation and technical expertise; socio-environmental movements and emergent political practices; and the entanglements of policy, research and science.

Current research interests

I am currently researching 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 ethnographic work follows three wind energy projects at different scales where relations between humans, wind and technology are being actively (re)negotiated in a variety of experimental ways. One fieldwork site is 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 am also tracking the process of obtaining, installing and integrating into the locality a community-owned wind turbine in north-east Scotland; finally, I am following the unfolding negotiations surrounding the establishment and implementation of a community benefit scheme associated with a windfarm that is set to be amongst Scotland's largest. The research will look 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 is supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2015-18), and is also linked to the EU-funded TESS (Towards European Societal Sustainability) project.

Past research

State Power, Decentralisation and Infrastructure in Highland Peru

I am continuing to develop research based on fieldwork I carried out 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.<


  • Pinker, A.; (2021) Debating energy futures on Lewis energy transition, the politics of land use and law, and the question of the commons, Chapter 20: Debating energy futures on Lewis: energy transition, the politics of land use and law, and the question of the commons. Research Handbook on Energy and Society Elgar Handbooks in Energy, the Environment and Climate Change. Editors: Janette Webb, Faye Wade and Margaret Tingey
  • Pinker, A.; Harvey, P. (2017) Negotiating uncertainty: neoliberal statecraft in Peru., In: Laszczkowski, M. & Reeves, M. (eds.). Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions. (Studies in Social Analysis), Berghahn, Oxford, Chapter 1, pp1-14.

  • Pinker, A.; Currie, M. (2020) Community landowners on the Western Isles: Aspirations, challenges, and future prospects., Report on Workshop, Kinloch Historical Society, Isle of Lewis, 10 September 2019.
  • Pinker, A.; Kyle, C. (2020) 60 Harvests Left? Curating conversations about current and alternative food systems in the face of climate and ecological crisis., Report on an Interdisciplinary Workshop, Glensaugh Farm, 25 November 2019.
  • Pinker, A. (2020) Just transitions: a comparative perspective., Report prepared for the Just Transition Commission, 25 August 2020, 74pp.
  • Pinker, A.; Colley, K (2019) Co-ordinated, tailored and inclusive energy efficiency schemes for fighting fuel poverty: Aberdeen., SMARTEES Report.
  • Currie, M.; Pinker, A.; Copus, A., (2019) Case study report: Strengthening communities on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, United Kingdom., RELOCAL Project Web-page.

Printed from /staff/annabel-pinker on 26/05/22 04:01:20 AM

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.