Academic Profile

Kärg Kama holds a research and teaching fellowship in human geography, jointly awarded by St Anne's College and the School of Geography and the Environment. Kärg completed her DPhil at the School in September 2013 under the supervision of Professor Andrew Barry. She has an MSc (Distinction) in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy from the University of Oxford and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Tartu. Prior to moving to the UK in 2006, Kärg worked for seven years for the national audit office and non-government organizations in Estonia, where she monitored the state government's performance in environmental policy-making, resource management and the use of EU/EEA financial instruments.

Current Research

Kärg's research combines resource and energy geographies with economic sociology and science and technology studies. Her recent work has elaborated on the practices and events through which certain components of the material world become intelligible as 'resources' that are deemed technologically possible, economically viable and socially acceptable to exploit, and has documented how these processes of resource-making vary geographically. Her DPhil project investigated this in the context of 'non-conventional' energy development, with a thesis titled 'Unconventional Futures: Anticipation, Materiality, and the Market in Oil Shale Development'. Based upon a detailed analysis of how oil shale exploitation is rendered feasible via the promise of a 'resource of the future', standardized across very different socio-ecological settings and subsequently transforms the carbon economy, the thesis argued for a relational understanding of resource materiality and a non-essentialist, materially engaged account of energy economies and politics. Kärg's Masters thesis from 2007 examined the impacts of a Shell oil development project on local indigenous politics in Salym village, West Siberia.

During the fellowship, Kärg is writing a book on the science and politics of resource-making based on the study of oil shales, while expanding her empirical research to other unconventional fossil fuels, as well as non-energy materials and wastes. The key question that informs this research is how such materials and associated socio-technological systems could be understood to affect economic and political life without descending into deterministic explanations. This work advances existing social theories of materiality, knowledge politics and the geographies of marketization. Drawing on her previous work experience and reading of post-structuralist philosophy, Kärg is also exploring the value of affirmative dispositions and participatory techniques for rethinking contemporary environmental activism beyond mere resistance.


Kärg teaches on the MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy, contributing lectures to the 'Nature and Society' and 'Science and Politics' core modules. She also co-convenes an MSc Elective on 'Politics of Oil and Gas' with Dr Caitlin McElroy and gives tutorials at St Anne's College.

Current graduate research students

Alexandra Pons (MPhil)The financialization of environmental risk in hydraulic fracturing

Selected Publications

  • View Dr Kärg Kama's ORCID profile
  • View Dr Kärg Kama's Scopus profile
  • View Dr Kärg Kama's ResearchGate profile
  • View Dr Kärg Kama's profile
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Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Bradshaw, M., Chindo, M., Dutton, J. and Kama, K. (2015) Unconventional fossil fuels and technological change. Chapter 14 in, Ekins, P., Bradshaw, M. and Watson, J. (eds.) Global Energy: Issues, Potentials, and Policy Implications. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 268-290. ISBN: 978-0-19-871952-6.

Conference Papers

Selected conference papers and invited talks

  • "Economization, speculation and the geophysical: insights from unconventional hydrocarbon development". Global Conference in Economic Geography, Oxford, 21 August 2015.
  • "Recalcitrant resources? The geophysical and the economic in unconventional energy development". AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, 25 April 2015.
  • "Contesting technology transfer: the disputed travels of a shale oil retort". EASST 2014 conference, Torun, Poland, 18 September 2014.
  • "Materiality as potentiality: discrepancies between geologic and economic framings of future resources", RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 27 August 2014.
  • "Technology in translation: realigning machinery, resources and energy economy". AAG Annual Meeting, Tampa, Florida, 9 April 2014.
  • "Geology defies economics? Resource materiality and economization in unconventional energy development". 'Marketizing Nature' workshop, University of Durham, Department of Geography, 15 January 2014.
  • "'When unconventional becomes conventional': the anticipatory politics of shale oil development". 'New Energy Security Challenges' workshop, RGS-IBG Energy Geographies Working Group, London, 10 May 2012.
  • "Energy governance and technology development in Estonia: A shale oil industry in the making". Baltic Symposium 2012, University College London, 20 April 2012.
  • "Solid shales, liquid promises: Rethinking the materiality of an unconventional oil resource". AAG Annual Meeting, New York, 27 February 2012.
  • "Behind 'Estonian exceptionalism': oil shale, energy security and carbon pricing". 'Baltic Energy Dilemmas' workshop, Södertörn University, Stockholm, 24 November 2011.
  • "Between energy security and emissions trading: the potential politics of 'carbon leakage' in Estonia". ESRC seminar series on 'The Nordic and Baltic states in the European Imagination', University College London, 30 September 2011.
  • "Border strategies: carbon leakage, energy security and the Estonian oil shale industry". RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 1 September 2011.