ICOHTEC awarded the 5th Young Scholar Prize in Manchester. The Prize Committee received 18 entries, many of them of very high quality, requiring, of course, difficult decisions by the committee. The members have chosen Laura Ann Twagira’s study of women’s development of food technology in early 20th century colonial west Africa, Women and Gender at the Office du Niger (Mali). Twagira’s Rutgers University dissertation successfully characterizes and contextualizes the technological gestalt of a mundane and routine, but absolutely necessary task: putting acceptable food on the family table. She sets this daily chore, for which historically women in Niger/Mali were responsible, not only into what she calls the “foodscape” of the natural environment, but also into the context of efforts at colonial development that mainly targeted men’s activities. Twagira makes us sharply aware that cookware, containers, heating equipment, and agricultural hand implements, plus the tacit knowledge of how to make successful products using these tools, is no less a technological system than is farming with a tractor or the manufacture of semiconductors. One of the committee members correctly observes that Africa is “a space much underexposed in studies of technology.”
Twagira’s work is exemplary in its framing of women as decision makers and significant actors under a colonial regime that recognized economic and technological development only in male-dominated forms of work.
22 August 2013