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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


Embodied Engineering: Gender, Technology, and Body Politics in Mali (West Africa)

Embodied Engineering: Gender, Technology, and Body Politics in Mali (West Africa)

Laura Ann Twagira • Wesleyan University

November 5 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

In the 1940s women in Mali were at the vanguard of a technological revolution. They began cooking in metal pots. Following decades of intensified colonial demands for wood, deforestation was a real concern. Women's adoption of metal pots addressed the ecological concern for wood fuel and saved labor time. Metal pots required less wood than clay pots and cooked faster. Women who cooked with a clay pot stirred slowly for hours. The metal ones required bigger and faster movements. Cooking was very much a technique of the body. Over the twentieth century the “status of African women” emerged as a policy concern, especially women's labor, first among colonial administrators and later among development experts, and postcolonial government officials. Women did not view their own physical labor as a problem. Women were rural engineers, and through their technological work they mediated the shifting natural and political environment of the twentieth century.

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