“Your Home is Your Biosphere”: Legacies of Gender and Race in the Domesticity of Alternative Technology

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When Sean Wellesley-Miller argued that “your home is your biosphere” in 1977, the alternative technology movement had garnered support from grassroots activists, national governments, and international agencies. Proponents imagined that constructing alternatives to ecologically destructive technological systems could not only solve earthly peril but provide social revolution (Winner 1986). In many ways, this movement presaged current discussions over sustainability. However, just as Myles Lennon has shown that today’s infrastructure justice proponents reify racial social orders (Lennon 2020), alternative technology constructed sustainable spaces not for any body, but for specifically raced and gendered bodies. Imagining homes as biospheres inscribed white, heteronormative, middle-class hegemonic domestic practices into ecological-technological systems intended to preserve a threatened earth. This paper argues that these raced and gendered practices allowed such technologies to be used in development projects, exporting social orders along with technological interventions (Jasanoff 2004). Thus, this paper extends recent scholarship on management of the global environment through population control by arguing that such geopolitical projects included control of women’s domestic practices, not only their reproductive lives (Murphy 2017, Sasser 2018). However, while the toxic legacies of white domesticity as a form of colonial power (Stoler 2002) remained latent in these eco-technological designs, the women who participated in such groups began to assert various forms of political power that did not conform to existing structures. They insisted on new forms of technoscientific citizenship (Kimura 2016) and shared public concern for harms, providing a space of political openness rather than the closure of private domestic acts.

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September 8, 2021 - 3:42am

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Abstract by Emma Schroeder, submitted to the 4S 2021 Panel Toxic Goodness: Harmful Legacies, Hopeful Futures

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Emma Schroeder, "“Your Home is Your Biosphere”: Legacies of Gender and Race in the Domesticity of Alternative Technology", contributed by Duygu Kasdogan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 8 September 2021, accessed 19 October 2021.