Energy and Displacement in Eight Objects: Insights from Sub-Saharan Africa

Jamie Cross, Megan Douglas, Craig Martin, Charlotte Ray, Gerardus Verhoeven, Owen Grafham

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract / Description of output

What can a water cooler, a sheet of metal, a cooking pot, a lump of charcoal, a pair of bellows, and a piece of wire tell us about energy and forced displacement?

Studies of forced displacement in Sub-Saharan Africa rarely attend to the things that people carry with them when they move away from conflict, threats of persecution or rapid environmental change. Strapped onto backs, tucked into rucksacks, loaded onto lorries, stored carefully inside temporary homes and shelters, these are the things that people rely upon in contexts defined by uncertainty, precariousness and vulnerability.

These are often things laden with meaning. As journalists report, for example, the cooking pots and goatskin water sacks carried by Tuareg people from Mali to Goudoubo refugee camp in Burkina Faso are expressions of cultural heritage and tradition [1]. Such reports directly inform humanitarian interventions. In Burkina Faso the humanitarian response to the refugee crises has included programmes aimed at ‘enhancing’ the skills of traditional artisans, with a view to promote refugee arts, crafts and jewellery products in international markets [2].

But what other stories might be told about these everyday things? How are things like cooking pots and goatskin water bags actually used? Why are they so significant that people bring them on uncertain or insecure journeys? And what role do they play in the provision of basic energy services for people with limited or no access to mains electricity?
Original languageEnglish
PublisherChatham House
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78413 364 1
ISBN (Print)978 1 78413 364 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

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