Invitational Rhetoric as Ecofeminist Practice: Building an Energy Efficient House in Kerala, India

By Merle Kindred.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper shares the blending of academic theory and methodology with practical, activist application focusing specifically on the designing and building of a prototypical energy efficient house in Kerala, India with the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) using indigenous knowledge and appropriate technology.
The paper takes the form of a personal odyssey from the US to the state of Kerala in India during the course of university doctoral study. It is the story of my ecofeminist beliefs about the importance of environmental concerns and the way I have learned to articulate these beliefs through a feminist rhetoric of cooperation, caring, and grassroots activity as critical sources of knowledge and transformation. Using autoethnography, I advance the ecofeminist rhetorical option of invitational rhetoric and argue for its potency in fostering change in responding to the exigencies of environmental depletion inherent in our current residential energy use.
My post-doctoral laboratory is Kerala with its half-century history of modeling education and health care systems for less overdeveloped societies. Less well known is Kerala’s modeling for the built environment as demonstrated in the work of COSTFORD. This paper documents the design and construction strategies implemented in an energy efficient house as co-rhetor manifesting the merits of ecofeminist invitational rhetoric, re-sourcement, and enfoldment. The house, presently under construction, provides a blending of indigenous knowledge in design and construction with developments in appropriate technology as embodied rhetoric. It demonstrates both different architecture and architecture that makes a difference as well as the efficacy of alternative rhetorical theory and methodology.

Keywords: Invitational Rhetoric, Ecofeminism, Energy, Built Environment, Kerala, India, COSTFORD, Autoethnography, Re-sourcement, Enfoldment, Indigenous Knowledge, Appropriate Technology

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 2, Issue 5, pp.79-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.136MB).

Dr. Merle Kindred

Independent Consultant, Thiruvananthapuram Centre, Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

My background is in education, theatre, and administration. I have worked in the US, Canada, the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Recently I have completed a doctorate in Rhetoric and Technical Communication with focus on communication challenges involved in changing perception and use of energy in the residential built environment. My Western case study revolved around the work my late husband, an architect, and I did based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in creating energy efficient houses for high latitude conditions. My Eastern case study focused on the work of Master Architect Laurie Baker and the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development in Kerala. Currently, I’m serving as a volunteer Independent Consultant with COSTFORD and have commissioned a prototypical energy efficient house in tandem with my Indian “family of friends.” I’m also active with the “Women in Energy” programme sponsored by USAID and SARI/Energy. I continue to present and publish in both the West and East on matters pertaining to transforming our relationship to energy.


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