Go back to article: Making Material and Cultural Connections: the fluid meaning of ‘Living Electrically’ in Japan and Canada 1920–1960


This article explores how material and cultural ‘connections’ to households were crucial in defining historical pathways of domestic electrification in Canada and Japan. Though relatively overlooked in the history of energy, we contend that the intricacies of household connections are important in understanding convergence and divergence in electrified ways of life. Electricity’s arrival in urban and rural homes was an uneven process in part due to geographical diversity and the variable connection policies of public or private providers. Selective insights from our two countries show that spatial irregularities in grid expansion and social inequities in the meaning of electrical service further arose out of misalignments between developers’ visions and the diverse material cultures of households. This disparity manifested in the form of disconnections between non-standard wiring and equipment, as well as in the form of consumer resistance, protests and even illicit acts as people fought to get the electrical service they desired. Instead of seeing electrification as a single, universal ideal around which all countries eventually converged, we conclude that it has always been an open-ended, negotiable and culturally fluid process.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180904/001