Hearth and Home in Cape Town: African Women, Energy Resourcing, and Consumption in an Urban Environment


Lee, Rebekah. 2006. “Hearth and Home in Cape Town: African Women, Energy Resourcing, and Consumption in an Urban Environment.” Journal of Women’s History 18 (4): 55–78.

Author: Rebekah Lee


This article adds to the literature on energy consumption in South Africa through the contribution of a historical and gendered perspective. It focuses on how differing generations of African women in the apartheid (1948–1994) and post-apartheid periods resourced, consumed, and related to various types of fuels. “Energy histories” solicited from twenty-five African female residents of Cape Town across three generational cohorts show women’s broad and complex engagement with the material fabric of the city. In an era of globalized access and technological change, electricity was increasingly seen as essential to a modern, “easy” lifestyle. Electrical appliances themselves provided a medium through which women questioned and brokered household power relations. Yet women also revealed a tenacious loyalty to older patterns of energy use. This was reflective of the historically uneven progress towards electrification of African townships, as well as issues more intimately related to gendered and generational dynamics.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Infrastructure, Energy Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2006

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