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Capitalizing Community: Waste, Wealth, and (Im)material Labor in Kampala

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2019

Jacob Doherty*
Affiliation:
University of Oxford

Abstract

Biomass briquettes have emerged as a development silver bullet, supposedly converting waste to wealth and tackling crises of unemployment, urban waste management, and rural deforestation. Briquettes have captured the imagination of international environmental NGOs operating in many African cities who promote briquette production, partnering with local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) to improve urban livelihoods and sanitation. Based on ethnographic research conducted in Kampala, Uganda, this article examines the entanglement of material and immaterial labor in the production of briquettes. The outcome of these production processes is to capitalize Community, transforming everyday socio-spatial relations into an agential entrepreneurial subject fit to receive aid and carry out development. This has the additional effect of exacerbating differences of gender and education within the CBO, alienating the CBO from the rest of Bwaise, and reproducing the racial hierarchies of the development economy.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2019 

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References

Notes

1. Briquettes additionally combat deforestation in rural areas insofar as they provide an alternative domestic fuel-source to wood-based charcoal.

2. Per an agreement with my research collaborators in Bwaise, the names of BWATUDA and its members are pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.

3. In the remainder of this article I use the upper-case “Community” to designate this idealized notion of Community deployed by development projects, and the lower-case “community” otherwise.

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25. Other organic wastes with sufficient caloric content such as corn husks, sugar cane fibers, and cassava peelings were also suitable, but much less prevalent. The NGOs and CBOs involved in briquette production that I encountered all referred to matooke peelings as their primary input.

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27. The largest briquette producers in Uganda at the time of research were an internationally funded eco-business operating a large-scale production facility in a neighboring town. They hired dozens of young promoters to stand outside city supermarkets to market briquettes to the city's middle class and familiarize them with this all new product. Even with this effort, it was a struggle to carve out a niche.

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