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Cows, Cookstoves, and Climate Change: A Non-Anthropocentric View of Household Energy Use in the Rural Indian Himalayas

Deepti Chatti


Household air pollution in the form of smoke from cookstoves in low-income homes is a serious threat to the health of women and children in the global South, and a contributor to global climate change. Many development actors have attempted to intervene in rural kitchens, by facilitating an energy transition to new technologies and fuels. Based on research in the rural Indian Himalayas, this paper will demonstrate how efforts to promote improved cookstoves bring different visions of stoves together in rural kitchens – as a technology meant to generate heat for cooking food, and as a device at the heart(h) of energy and mass flows between people, their livestock, and their fields. Drawing on eighteen months of fieldwork conducted between 2013-17 in rural Himachal Pradesh in India, this paper will examine the effect that human-animal relationships have on household energy decisions, ultimately affecting individual health and the environment. This approach expands existing scholarship in energy studies, which has historically been anthropocentric.


household energy, cookstoves, energy access, multi-species entanglements, development

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2018-001-chat

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo