The Critical Classroom – “Oppressive Energopolitics in Africa’s Last Colony: Energy, Subjectivities, and Resistance”

Joanna Allan, Northumbria University

The open access article that I co-wrote with my colleagues Mahmoud Lemaadel (Independent scholar, El Aaiún, Western Sahara) and Hamza Lakhal (Durham University), “Oppressive Energopolitics in Africa’s Last Colony: Energy, Subjectivities, and Resistance”, is forthcoming in Antipode 54(1) in January 2022, and available online now. It focuses on the case of energy developments (mostly renewable energy developments) in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, and how they are used to oppress the indigenous Saharawi population. It explores Saharawi perceptions of the renewable energy developments, and wider energy system, in occupied Western Sahara.

I envisage that our article would be useful for undergraduate or Masters students working on the climate crisis, energy justice, energy democracy, energy and development and/or energy and colonialism. I hope that it would encourage students to think critically about renewable energy developments and about energy justice globally. I believe the paper could provoke discussion around the following questions:

  • How do energy systems shape political subjectivities?
  • Can authoritarian regimes use energy systems to oppress their subjects? How?
  • Given the climate crisis, should we support renewable energy developments at any cost? Why (not)?
  • Do you know of more “just” ways of developing renewable energy than the example discussed in this paper?


Nuchatta ( is a media and human rights organisation co-led by one of the co-authors of our paper (Mahmoud Lemaadel). Nuchatta is run by several volunteer journalists in occupied Western Sahara. It seeks to document and raise awareness about human rights violations in Western Sahara, including those related to natural resource exploitation. Nuchatta produces news reports and short video documentaries, which may be useful resources in the classroom.

Ocupación S.A. ( is a 40-minute documentary made by Spanish NGO Mundubat (, available for free on Vimeo with English subtitles. It focuses on capitalist crimes in Western Sahara, more specifically the interrelation between natural resource exploitation (including in the realm of energy) and human rights abuses against indigenous Saharawis.

Western Sahara Resource Watch ( is a network of international and Saharawi volunteers that campaigns against the exploitation of Saharawi natural resources carried out without Saharawi consent. Renewable energy is among the resources that we work on (I am a volunteer with this organisation). Our research reports, news bulletins and letters on the issue may be useful resources in the classroom. For example, in the past I have downloaded WSRW letters to energy companies, and asked students [a] to draft responses as if they were corporate communications executives (this supports their critical thinking and communication skills), and [b] imagine they are planning a campaign against a certain company (I ask them to think about what arguments they can use against the company, how to influence certain MPs, how to find out who a company’s shareholders are; this helps them to develop advocacy skills, amongst others).

Indigenous Climate Hub ( is an Indigenous-led project and national online platform for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The idea for the national platform was first proposed by First Nations climate change leaders at the inaugural Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Gathering (ICCAG) in 2018. I have linked to a post on renewable energy, but the entire website may be a useful place for students to explore justice and climate adaptation.