Is There a Feminist Energy Technology?

Authors: Deepti Chatti*, Humboldt State University
Topics: Environment, Energy, Third World
Keywords: technology, culture, feminist, postcolonial, energy, environment, development
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 58
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

What would make an energy technology feminist? And is there a feminist way to make energy technologies? This paper analyzes different development imaginaries embedded within three different “clean” cookstove technologies. Clean cookstoves are technologies used to expand energy access in low and middle income countries where large populations are energy underserved. Efforts to expand ‘clean’ cooking energy access in the global South can provide substantial public health and societal benefits to half the world’s population that is currently underserved, as well as climate benefits to the global community. ‘Clean’ cooking development projects consist of helping low-income families move away from burning solid biomass fuels in locally made technologies called ‘traditional’ stoves, and towards ‘improved’ stoves that purportedly burn fuels better, or use ‘clean’ burning fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electricity. The three stoves I analyze embody different visions of development in them. One technology aims to embody a Silicon Valley ethic of disruption. The second technology embodies the idea of “technology transfer” from the Global North to the South. The third stove I analyze embodies an ethos of nationalism. Do any of these development technologies aspire to feminist political goals? Can an energy technology be feminist? What would a feminist approach to developing energy technologies look like? Based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in India, this paper analyzes the political aspirations and lives of household energy technologies.

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