Watching fracking: Public engagement in postindustrial Britain

Anna Szolucha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


The UK government's efforts to facilitate shale gas exploration have been matched by a surge of public opposition. The latter has manifested in a broad spectrum of activities in which local communities have “watched fracking”—meaning they have observed, protested, and filmed outside the drilling site, often taking note of when the pumps start and stop. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northwest England, I analyze residents’ various “watching” activities as one dynamic through which they sought to mediate situated modes of sociopolitical erasure. Watching fracking was a form of directly participating in public matters, compensating the watchers for the state's perceived failures and those of corporate models of community engagement. It also helped members of the anti-fracking community distance themselves from the state and their own feelings of alienation. By thus highlighting how disappointment with state formations interacts with an activist subjectivity, anthropologists can deepen our understanding of the changing relationship between state and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-91
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


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