Twagira’s Newest Finalist for African Studies Association 2022 Best Book Prize
Associate Professor of Record Laura Ann Twagira’s the latest reserve commences with a song – women from Mali are singing and bragging about the excellent of their cooking. From this domestic second, Twagira found the keys to a technological revolution.
“Women are bragging and praising just one a different. They are producing foods that everyone’s likely to enjoy and that will enliven existence. In buy to do that, they have to have a vital established of technological abilities,” she mentioned.
Twagira’s e-book Embodied Engineering: Gendered Labor, Food Protection and Style in Twentieth-Century Mali was named a finalist for the 2022 Most effective E book prize from the African Scientific tests Association (ASA). The winner of the award will be introduced in November.
The ASA offers the prize yearly, recognizing the most significant scholarly operate in African scientific studies posted in English and dispersed in the United States throughout the preceding year. The textbooks represented appear from many disciplines, like sociology, literature, political science, and history.
“Her exploration demonstrates the huge agency and significance of Malian women of all ages in their capability to cultivate embodied relationships with the natural entire world as a result of the cultivation, selection, and cooking of foodstuff,” wrote Inigo Acosta in his assessment for H-Sci-Med-Tech / H-Web Assessments.
Employing a blend of folktales, archival exploration, and oral interviews, Twagira explores how women in rural Mali have utilised engineering to be certain meals stability by way of the colonial interval, several environmental crises, and postcolonial rule. In carrying out this exploration she also noticed Malian women cooking for their communities and learned by their side, a not so quick task.
“The book is about gals as technological brokers. In substantially progress literature, African girls are represented as remaining in need to have of technological guidance. Effectively, (in Mali) women were by now savvy technological agents in advance of any colonial or post-colonial enhancement initiative,” Twagira mentioned.
She concentrated her analysis on the Office du Niger, an irrigated agricultural challenge crafted by the French in the 1930s. The undertaking radically changed the landscape around the Niger River, such as the bulldozering of trees required for the women’s foods creation. In several approaches, the plan transformed how ladies approached their do the job. “For case in point, in adopting metallic cooking pots, they found a technological resolution to what was seriously a deforestation crisis for the reason that the new pots did not require as much wood to gasoline the hearth,” Twagira stated.
In 1968 — not prolonged right after independence from the French — Mali’s armed forces took about the country and another ecological and food crisis emerged. To aid regular men and women have plenty of to eat, ladies smuggled foodstuff from the fields in headscarves or tied it all over their stomachs to make them search expecting. “This exercise is a really very good instance of embodied engineering. It is not just about labor, it’s about ladies transforming their bodies to guarantee the foodstuff stability and survival of people in the area,” she said.
Uncomplicated but impactful technological improvements – cooking pots, the mortar and pestle, and a lot more – turned enshrined in Malian folklore. For illustration, even though doing exploration at the Schomburg Centre for Study in Black Society, she observed a group of folktales penned in the Bambara language describing gals who cooked speedily as possessing magical or superhero like attributes. “It drop light-weight for me on the way women’s benefit in generating food was this kind of that it could typically feel fantastical to folks who lived by intervals of drought and food items lack,” she mentioned.
Twagira’s initially introduction to West Africa was by her Francophone Literature Scientific tests at Wellesley Faculty, and she was psyched to draw on regional folklore for the guide. Soon after graduation she joined the Peace Corps and invested a yr performing in a modest Malian overall health heart. “It was a transformational encounter for me, mastering about a new tradition and my initially-time observing women’s collective get the job done procedures.” she claimed.
The midwife Fatoumata Djénépo with whom Twagira worked was deeply concerned with nutrition issues. “All of the solutions had been rooted in women’s awareness about food manufacturing and bettering on what they now knew,” Twagira claimed.
From there a route toward turning out to be a historian was founded, joining Wesleyan in 2013.
Doing the job with students on their theses and engaging in the wealthy mental life of the College has only served her long system of delving into Mali’s society. When a fellow with the Wesleyan Centre for Humanities, she shared parts of the reserve manuscript with students and innovated a key supply workshop with elements from her new undertaking on the technobody politics of colonial rule and demography.