Laura Ann Twagira, assistant professor of history, received the 2013 ICOHTEC Young Scholar Book Prize from the International Committee for the History of Technology. The ICOHTEC is interested in the history of technology, focusing on technological development as well as its relationship to science, society, economy, culture and the environment.
Twagira was honored for her Rutgers University dissertation on the study of women’s development of food technology in early 20th century colonial west Africa, Women and Gender at the Office du Niger (Mali).
“Twagira’s dissertation successfully characterizes and contextualizes the technological gestalt of a mundane and routine, but absolutely necessary task: putting acceptable food on the family table. She sets this daily chore, for which historically women in Niger/Mali were responsible, not only into what she calls the ‘foodscape’ of the natural environment, but also into the context of efforts at colonial development that mainly targeted men’s activities,” said Rachel Maines, chairwoman of the ICOHTEC.
“Twagira makes us sharply aware that cookware, containers, heating equipment, and agricultural hand implements, plus the tacit knowledge of how to make successful products using these tools, is no less a technological system than is farming with a tractor or the manufacture of semiconductors. Twagira’s work is exemplary in its framing of women as decisionmakers and significant actors under a colonial regime that recognized economic and technological development only in male-dominated forms of work.”
The award will be bestowed in Manchester, United Kingdom in July.
At Wesleyan, Twagria teaches “The Environment and Society in Africa” and “Gender and Authority in African Societies.”