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RAEL Lunch Talk — March 7 — Veronica Jacome: The Social Construction of Utilities for Energy Access

March 7 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

| Free

Con­nect­ing poor pop­u­la­tions to elec­tric­ity is gen­er­ally thought to lead to reduc­tions in poverty-​​induced vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and is con­sid­ered a pri­mary strat­egy for meet­ing devel­op­ment goals. Indeed the main push for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects in sub-​​Saharan Africa (SSA) rests on the con­nec­tion between the lack of elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions in SSA, and the preva­lence of poverty. How­ever, this vision rests on an under­stand­ing of ser­vices built on abun­dance, and inter­ac­tions with elec­tric­ity ser­vices are rel­a­tively obso­lete. In con­trast, con­strained sys­tems are dynamic, vary­ing spa­tially and tem­po­rally, and carry a diverse set of agents. Fur­ther­more, the nature of such var­ied ser­vices, which can lit­er­ally leave peo­ple in the dark, com­pounds exist­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties by increas­ing uncer­tainty for already pre­car­i­ous pop­u­la­tions.  Still, the bench­mark for access, its reli­a­bil­ity, and its intended use, emerges from spe­cific polit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and social con­di­tions, namely, that of the Global North. This talk seeks to ques­tion a Global North vision of access by explor­ing the fol­low­ing: when bench­marks for elec­tric­ity ser­vices are unrec­og­niz­able locally, what becomes invis­i­ble? The fol­low­ing research presents ethno­graphic work on the island of Unguja, Tan­za­nia – where semi-​​structured, open ended inter­views were con­ducted  between 2014 and 2016, com­bined with detailed elec­tric­ity sys­tems mon­i­tor­ing.  By com­bin­ing an exten­sive under­stand­ing  of the phys­i­cal sys­tem, together with qual­i­ta­tive semi-​​structured inter­views, this work estab­lishes a unique notion of the social and mate­r­ial con­di­tions capa­ble of height­en­ing and adapt­ing to every­day uncertainties.


Veron­ica Jacome is a PhD can­di­date in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), and holds a BS in Engi­neer­ing Physics from Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois at Urbana-​​Champaign. At ERG, Veron­ica focuses her research on terms of access that under­pin “mod­ern” energy for all, namely, rates and reli­a­bil­ity. Her recent work cen­ters on pre– ver­sus post– pay­ment prac­tices and the vari­ance of elec­tric­ity ser­vices in the Global South, invest­ing how these aspects enable or hin­der access to mod­ern and afford­able energy for all (Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goal 7). The study site for this research is Tan­za­nia. Veron­ica is also a PhD stu­dent in the Pro­gram in Crit­i­cal The­ory, which enables her to engage with broader social, polit­i­cal, and eco­nomic con­di­tions embed­ded within energy infrastructure.

Rocco Fel­low, Chateaubriand Fel­low, Art Rosen­feld Fel­low, NSF Grad­u­ate Fel­low, For­eign Lan­guage Aca­d­e­mic Scholarship


March 7
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Dan Kammen


310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720 United States
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Energy & Resources Group
310 Barrows Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3050
Phone: (510) 642-1640
Fax: (510) 642-1085
Email: ergdeskb@berkeley.edu


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