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Scholarship of Design
Solar Systems for the Rural Body:
Techno-Environmental Othering in India, ca. 1978
Ateya Khorakiwala
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This article considers how solar energy discourse in the 1970s othered rural bodies in India. In the 1970s, proponents of solar energy seized the opportunity provided by the oil crisis to argue for their technology as a clean, cheap, abundant, and universal alternate. The community characterized solar energy as a technical problem, yet in house design, they relied on subjective parameters like thermal comfort. Investigating the designs of solar cooling and heating systems for houses in semi-arid rural Punjab in the 1970s, this article argues that first world parameters like “comfort” and “house” were taken as universal standards when in fact they were historically constituted ideas. This elision of history had the effect of othering the rural bodies for which they were designed.

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