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Accepted Paper:

When is Energy? Who is Energy? Gender, Labor, and Domesticity in Tanzania  
Kristin Phillips (Emory University) Erin Dean (New College of Florida)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research in Tanzania, we ask: under what conditions are labor, technology, and the fuels of everyday life recognized as constituting a field of “energy”? We argue that gender figures prominently in the construction and resolution of energy dilemmas.

Paper long abstract:

“At the district-level, when people talk of energy, they only consider electricity. They do not talk about solar, water pumps, cooking – all the things that shape women’s lives.” This 2019 insight from an NGO advocate in Dar es Salaam reflects a broader issue in energy policy, planning, and scholarship: that although domestic energy consumption constitutes up to 80 percent of total energy use in developing countries (Parikh 2000), the fuels that power the majority of homes in these contexts are largely left out of energy theories, policies, and plans. Drawing on insights from ethnographic research on gender, renewable energy, and infrastructure in Tanzania, this paper explores how gender figures in the construction and resolution of energy dilemmas in the anthropocene. Following Engestrom (1990) and Star and Ruehleder (1996)--who respectively asked, “When is a tool?” and “When is infrastructure?”--we ask in this paper, “When is energy?” That is, under what conditions are labor, technology, and the fuels of everyday life recognized and legitimized as constituting a field of “energy,” and thus worthy of observation, study, and intervention? Moreover, “who is energy?”; that is, what ideas and practices gender the spaces of the home, industry, and governance in Tanzania, and decide whose potentiality shall be enhanced through energy projects and which types of energy will accomplish this? We suggest that anthropological scholarship on energy and infrastructure has itself been gendered in its predominant focus on the official and commercial spaces of infrastructure rather than the productive domestic spaces of households.

Panel Speak17c
Who speaks for energy? Responsibility and authority in the ethnographies of energy in an era of anthropogenic climate change III
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -