Energy on the Move: Displaced Objects in Knowledge and Practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Today access to fuel and electricity for displaced people is a humanitarian priority. But studies of displacement have little to say about how people meet their needs for artificial light, refrigeration and electric power on the move. Our approach to the study of energy in humanitarian contexts involves a recalibration of focus around material artefacts, drawing on methods from social anthropology and design studies. In this chapter we deploy this approach by tracing the displacement pathways and trajectories of a series of energy ‘objects’ across refugee camps in Burkina Faso and Kenya. Focusing on a pair of bellows, a repurposed solar cooker, a water carrier and a battery we show how energy objects can be starting points for engaging with the experiential, transactional and material dimensions of displacement. We explore the forms of material knowledge that people use and deploy to mend, rebuilt and redesign technologies. We examine the exchange-relationships through which people secure materials, components and parts. And we unpick the connections between these things, and the spaces or places of displacement. In doing so we demonstrate how energy objects materialise forms of knowledge and practice – and emerge as markers of mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Displacement
EditorsPete Adey, Katherine Brickell, Janet Bowstead, Vandana Desai, Mike Dolton, Alasdair Pinkerton, Ayesha Siddiqi
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020


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