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Promises of democratic connection?

The Politics of Transregional Energy Infrastructure Expansion

About the project

Contemporary transregional energy infrastructure projects aim to increase global connectivity and envisage seemingly borderless flows of energy, from wind and solar energy plants to power grids and transmission cables. But beyond connection, they generate deeply conflictive situations. To overcome simple explanations for tensions around infrastructures, we need to gain a better understanding of the meaning and effect of transregional infrastructures for potential democratic governance in the different locales they connect.

This project seeks a deeper understanding of the relationship between transregional infrastructure and the political agency of different actors in its planning, governance, and implementation, and asks:

In which ways do transregional infrastructure projects transform local, national and transnational political agency?

What is their effect on democratic and/or authoritarian practices of governance?



The Tunisia-Italy Electricity Connection

Within the scope of the planned MEDRING electricity grid, this project focuses on sites within Tunisia. The project analyzes who will actually benefit from the planned upscaled energy production, what perception of the project the local population has, and how the energy infrastructure may affect the local fishing economy. In a tense political frame, where Tunisia must respect the IMF guidelines, energy infrastructure can be a prism to address questions of governance, democracy, authoritarianism, and social claims.

SIEPAC Central American Energy Transmission

The project analyzes sites of infrastructure expansion part of SIEPAC, the transnational electricity line connecting Central America and Mexico. The project focuses on sites in Costa Rica and Mexico.

SIEPAC, in operation since 2014, is the electricity component of the Mesoamerican Project, a giant infrastructure plan between Mexico, Central America and Colombia. Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and others, it has a capacity of 300 MW. Around SIEPAC, energy generation projects (dams, wind farms, mines) have multiplied, but are highly contested and frequently conflictive.


Dr. Alke Jenss

PI for this project and Senior Researcher / Head of Contested Governance Cluster at Arnold-Bergstraesser Institute. Focus:

  • tensions around large-scale dams, defense of land
  • links between infrastructure studies, political economy, authoritarian neoliberalism literatures
  • Southern Mexico-Guatemala border region, Costa Rica, SIEPAC

Dr. Alessandra Bonci

Alessandra is a post-doc researching energy infrastructures and governance focusing on Tunisia in this project:

  • authoritarianism and conservative religious movements
  • political Islam 
  • gender studies, social movements and resistance
  • energy infrastructures between Europe and North Africa (solar plants), North Africa, Tunisia

Dr. Benjamin Schütze

Benjamin Schuetze is an associated researcher with the project and leads a German Research Foundation (DFG) project on Renewable Energies, Renewed Authoritarianisms? The Political Economy of Solar Energy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


With a focus on security infrastructures in Mexico and the Mesoamerican Project, a massive transnational infrastructure plan, Alke Jenss shows in Antipode (2023) how security and trade infrastructures become intertwined in what governments have called a “secure trade corridor” between Colombia and the United States.
Authoritarian power and contestation beyond the state, Globalizations, 2023. This special issue is an invitation to combine critical approaches to the study of authoritarian power by paying attention to spaces of contestation, authoritarian practices, as well as non-state actors and agency below and beyond the scale of the state.
Prefiguring politics: transregional energy infrastructures as a lens for the study of authoritarian practices, Globalizations, 2023 by Benjamin Schuetze and Alke Jenss. This article builds on technopolitics and the recent practice-turn in research on authoritarian power to study the political effects of transnational energy infrastructures.


Solar panels cleaned
16.03.2023 - 17.03.2023 | Freiburg
This international workshop on the tensions that energy infrastructures may create within democracies and their impact on transregional authoritarian dynamics will take place in mid-March 2023 in Freiburg.
workshop authoritarianism in democracy
20.09.2022 - 22.09.2022 | CALAS, Hauptsitz Guadalajara - Auditorium Rosario Castellanos, Mexiko
The Platform for Dialogue Authoritarianism in Democracy, funded by CALAS which took place in Guadalajara, Mexico in September 2022 scholars invited by Alke Jenss, Fabricio Rodríguez and Javier Alemán analysed the relation between the crisis of democracy in Latin America and the adaptation and privatization policies of the last three decades from a transregional perspective.