An Interdisciplinary Workshop


Domestic energy use has undergone dramatic changes over time, as wood, coal, oil, electricity and gas have come to fuel the home. These energy transitions transformed the home and domestic social practices, elevating standards of comfort, transforming gender roles, remodeling leisure practices and privacy, and modifying hygiene and standards of health. This workshop will reflect upon the home as a space in which energy is domesticated.


In the past few years, there has been increased scholarly attention to energy landscapes, with rivers, mines and oil-rigs becoming the object of study for environmental and energy historians. The main aim of this workshop is to explore energy environments as spaces that reach into and out of the home and to discuss the place of users. It seeks to examine the role of the home within networked systems and how larger energy infrastructures are linked to the private spaces of consumers.


Households have been connected to energy networks in different ways across cultures and time, shaped by changing systems of provision, structures of governance, market conditions and consumer preferences. The extension of these networks into the home transformed the fabric of domestic life and the social activities that occurred within it. Similarly changing practices of domestic consumption generated energy demand, impacting the physical landscape as distribution lines and substations were built to accommodate domestic provision. The entanglement of energy infrastructures and the home raises important questions about spatial boundaries, complicating preconceived notions about public and private space, conceptual understandings of the home, the locality of environments and environmental histories and the containment of energy use within the domestic sphere.


Papers will address issues such as:

Problems of scale and interconnections between macro and micro systems

Transformations of social practices within the home, including privacy, comfort and living standards

The relationship of material practices to social identities and gender roles

Systems of provision and distribution

Data collection and use regarding household energy

The place envisioned for the home in systems of energy governance

Planning models and architectural design

Personal hygiene and health

The role of tradition and social customs


Conveners: Paul Warde (University of Cambridge), Rebecca Wright (University of Sussex) and Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College)