Foregrounding African women’s ingenuity and labor, this pioneering case study shows how women in rural Mali have used technology to ensure food security through the colonial period, environmental crises, and postcolonial rule.
By advocating for an understanding of rural Malian women as engineers, Laura Ann Twagira rejects the persistent image of African women as subjects without technological knowledge or access and instead reveals a hidden history about gender, development, and improvisation. In so doing, she also significantly expands the scope of African science and technology studies.
Using the Office du Niger agricultural project as a case study, Twagira argues that women used modest technologies (such as a mortar and pestle or metal pots) and organized female labor to create, maintain, and reengineer a complex and highly adaptive food production system. While women often incorporated labor-saving technologies into their work routines, they did not view their own physical labor as the problem it is so often framed to be in development narratives. Rather, women’s embodied techniques and knowledge were central to their ability to transform a development project centered on export production into an environmental resource that addressed local taste and consumption needs.
Laura Ann Twagira is an associate professor of history at Wesleyan University. She edited the “Africanizing Technology” special issue for the journal Technology and Culture and was a scholar in residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. More info →
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Age of Concrete is about people building homes on tenuous ground in the outer neighborhoods of Maputo, Mozambique, places thought of simply as slums. But up close, they are an archive: houses of reeds, wood, zinc, and concrete embodying the ambitions of people who built their own largest investment and greatest bequest to the future.
States of Marriage shows how throughout the colonial period in French Sudan (present-day Mali) the institution of marriage played a central role in how the empire defined its colonial subjects as gendered persons with certain attendant rights and privileges. The book is a modern history of the ideological debates surrounding the meaning of marriage, as well as the associated legal and sociopolitical practices in colonial and postcolonial Mali.
Radio technology and broadcasting played a central role in the formation of colonial Portuguese Southern Africa and the postcolonial nation-state, Angola. Moorman details how settlers, the colonial state, African nationalists, and the postcolonial state all used radio to project power, while the latter employed it to challenge empire.
This multidisciplinary collection examines women’s security threats stemming from conflict, environmental policy, and economic limitations, as well as the growing repertoire of grass-roots solutions women are creating, demanding, and sharing throughout the world to increase their security.
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