(Partially Funded) Thesis Possibility:

I am looking for a Masters student who is interested in writing a thesis on everyday challenges and possibilities surrounding solar-based electrification in Sierra Leone. The theoretical perspective is flexible, but you should speak to broader debates on the socio-technical dimensions of development.

Excitingly, this opportunity is about more than ‘just’ writing a MSc thesis! You will be part of a highly interdisciplinary team that is developing, and examining the feasibility, of an open-source, affordable, reliable and accessible battery – a key component of any renewable energy system, especially also off-grid ones that can be used to power e.g. hospitals in remote, rural areas. You will bring a key sociological/anthropological perspective to this project through approximately 2 months of funded (!) fieldwork in Sierra Leone.

Concretely, you will

  • conduct approximately 2 months of ethnographically-inspired fieldwork in Sierra Leone to develop a better understanding of the needs, interests and values of the intended end users of the battery (e.g. individuals, village communities, health posts, schools)
  • analyse and write up your fieldwork findings by drawing on sociological/anthropological perspectives with a particular consideration for object biographies/itineraries (how/why electricity technologies, including batteries, are currently obtained, maintained and discarded)
  • complete a Masters thesis on the topic at WUR (see required profile for programmes) and potentially co-author additional output (e.g. blog, working paper, article)

And, you will fulfil the following requirements (if you do not meet all, but are keen to join, contact me anyways for further consultations):

  • Student enrolled in one of the following programmes at WUR: Master in International Development (ideally Sociology or Politics and Governance tracks); Master in Development and Rural Innovation; all required coursework (except thesis/internship/ACT) completed
  • Familiarity with critical perspectives on development, ideally with an established interest in technological change
  • Experience with qualitative research, especially semi-structured interviews and participant observation
  • Ideally previous fieldwork experience in a ‘developing’ context (research, work, volunteering), with a preference for familiarity with West Africa/Sierra Leone
  • Willingness to spend 2 months on site for ethnographically-inspire fieldwork       

To learn more about the overarching project: https://www.unusualcollaborations.com/fair-battery-challenge

For more information and to discuss possibilities please contact Stephanie Hobbis (stephanie.hobbis@wur.nl)

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