Kohn Colloquim || Meena Khandelwal, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, The University of Iowa
An estimated 2.7 billion people cook meals on biomass-fueled brick, stone and clay stoves. Scarcity of wood and negative impacts on health and environment have motivated efforts to design and distribute ‘improved’ cook-stoves (ICs) in developing countries. In India, despite massive promotion of ICs over many decades, there is little evidence of adoption. Gender is at the center of this puzzle regarding the Indian chulha (stove), for women and girls are the ones collecting fuel, absorbing the labor of its scarcity, and facing the most direct health impacts of smoke produced by cooking—and it is they who are targeted for social change. Feminist anthropology offers insights into the failure of efforts to diffuse ICs. Knowledge about gender dynamics, produced through empirical investigation of meaning and social relations, helps to explain how social change occurs—or doesn’t occur—in particular contexts, and may suggest ways forward.