Prelude to a Grid: Energy, Gender and Labour on an Electric Frontier

Citation:

Phillips, Kristin D. 2020. "Prelude to a Grid: Energy, Gender and Labour on an Electric Frontier." The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 38 (2): 71-87.

Author: Kristin D. Phillips

Abstract:

People in the Singida region of Tanzania have long utilized diverse energy sources for subsistence. The wind separates grain from chaff. The sun ripens the millet and dries it for storage. More recently, solar panels charge phones and rural electricity investments extend the national grid. Yet as an electric frontier, Singida remains only peripherally and selectively served by energy infrastructures and fossil fuels. This article sketches Singidans’ prospect from this space and time of energy transition. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2004 and 2019, it asks: how do rural Singidans eke energy from their natural and social environment? How can ideas of the sun and of labour in Nyaturu cosmology inform understandings of energy? And how are new energy technologies reshaping Singida’s social and economic landscape? I theorize energy as a deeply relational and gendered configuration of people, nature, labour and sociality that makes and sustains human and natural life.

Keywords: Africa, electricity, energy, gender, nature, labour, solar, tanzania

Topics: Environment, Gender, Infrastructure, Energy, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Tanzania

Year: 2020

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