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.
The committee consisted of Nina Möllers, Peter Jakab, and Rachel Maines (chair).