Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 July 2019
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.
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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