School of Social and Political Science

CAS Seminar - The Uncommon Sense of Biogas: Waste, Ethics, & Good Energy in Off-Grid Tanzania

13 October 2021
16:00 - 17:30


MS Teams (please e-mail to register)



Biogas photo


In this talk, Dr. Phillips theorizes energy ethics in a postcolonial world through analyzing the convergence of two key global energy projects--energy access and energy transition--in the emergence of household biogas technologies in Tanzania. Household biogas is an off-grid energy technology that converts human, animal, and agricultural waste into fuel. Drawing on ethnographic research in rural and peri-urban Arusha, Phillips asks: how do different ideas about what is ‘good energy’ animate the politics and implementation of biogas?  Through analyzing the politics of planetary reckoning, the semiotics of waste, and the historical sedimentation of inequality in infrastructural form, she argues that biogas’s material and infrastructural properties engage diverse ethical registers and prompt different aesthetic responses. These ethical registers of energy drive the narrativization of biogas and allow people to talk about what good energy means to them across unequal relationships and entangled ethical projects.

Kristin D. Phillips is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University.  She is the author of An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun, which won the Society of Economic Anthropology’s 2020 Book Prize. Phillips’ current research explores energy, waste, and infrastructure in Tanzania and Atlanta.   

Key speakers

  • Dr Kristin D Phillips - Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Emory University