Exploring the Mundane: Towards an Ethnographic Approach to Bioenergy

Deepti Chatti, Matthew Archer, Myles Lennon, Michael R. Dove

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article introduces the concept of ‘mundane bioenergy’, the largest source of renewable energy utilized by human society. While the term ‘renewable energy’ evokes images of solar panels and wind turbines, most renewable energy is used in a different form. This ‘mundane’ and largely invisible form of energy use takes place when families burn wood, dung, charcoal, and crop residue in cookstoves for their subsistence needs. We call on more energy ethnographers to grapple with mundane energy issues and strengthen this small but growing field of scholarship. Limited ethnographic scholarship on mundane energy issues leads to a partial understanding of emic perspectives and failed development initiatives. By sharing insights from our ongoing ethnographic research on mundane bioenergy, we demonstrate the value of bringing such insights into conversation with research in energy studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomass cookstoves
  • Energy ethnography
  • Anthropology of energy
  • Development studies

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