What, when & where
Home and Hearth: Gender and Energies within the Domestic Space, 19th-21st C.
Paris, 22-23 June 2020
The different sources of energy (wood, coal, gas and oil, electricity) increasingly changed lifestyles within the domestic space from the nineteenth century onward. The markets that included these new energy uses were amplified with the spread of multiple types of household equipment. Living conditions were transformed through the promotion of comfort, the reduction of domestic hardship, and the simplification of chores. Cooking, heating, refrigeration, hot water, and housework were all separately or collectively emphasized as sources of well-being in the household. Their promotion helped to simplify the most basic everyday practices from the bathroom to the kitchen, from lighting to cleaning. They also transformed activities outside of the home, and modified the sociabilities associated with them. They brought about the decline of collective washhouses, and reduced the provision of water and wood, both of which were synonymous with domestic drudgery. These evolutions have already been the subject of a great deal of historical and sociological research. The goal of this conference is therefore not to redo this history, but instead to explore it from new perspectives using a comparative approach.
The primary objective of this conference is to grasp, within the limits of the domestic space, the discourse and forms of marketing used by companies selling an energy source. Carrying coal up from the cellar, using the gas cooker, showing the refrigerator, chopping wood for the fireplace, and declaiming the advantages of hot water were so many situations that dramatized the mother, father, children, young woman, housewife, and coal deliveryman…In what ways were such messages received? What protests were there against uses? What evolutions were imposed on companies through the acceptance or rejection of innovation on the part of consumers?
These practices reveal similarities from one country to another, relating to the sometimes international commercial strategy of energy companies, or the modelization of communication mediums that were diffused via transnational transmission. Yet different cultures and original contextualized slogans equally contributed to creating distinct choices. The second goal of this conference is connected to this approach. Comparing discourses, types of advertisements, the topics promoted by companies in each country, the educational and pedagogical practices of home economics, and the attitudes of women and men within the domestic space should shed light on the existence of national forms of communication. The latter will be analyzed both with regard to the description of energies themselves, as well as the forms of competition between energies in the fairly different economic and energy contexts in the European countries under consideration, as well as with respect to the favored uses of each energy.
Finally, if sources from energy companies enable it, a third approach could focus on the expenses and investment dedicated to commercial strategies. We are familiar with the role of credit in household equipment, which incidentally was unequal across countries, and followed variable chronologies. Yet we are less familiar with the budgets allocated by companies to create sales targets, and to adjust their strategies to uses. Similarly, should there be a focus on the budgetary approach, in conjunction with legal capacity, in order to determine who paid for energy in the household, who made choices relating to it, and who purchased the new equipment that was indispensable for its uses? What mediation occurred within couples regarding these life choices and their associated budget?
It is these similarities and differences that the conference seeks to explore, within the diffusion of material cultures relating to energy and directly involved in the definition of gender roles.
Deadline & how to apply
Proposal will consist in an abstract of 500 words maximum and a one page CV. Please send it to the Committee for the History of Electricity and Energy (email@example.com) before the 31st of October 2019. The scientific committee will select the proposals by the 20th of November. French, Spanish, Italian and English will be the working languages at the conference, French and English publication languages.
Other info, Links & conditions
Please note that the conference is a preparatory step towards the publication of a special issue on this theme of the Journal of Energy History / Revue d’histoire de l’énergie, planned for the spring of 2021.