Structure, agency and capabilities: Conceptualising inertia in solid fuel-based cooking practices

Yuwan Malakar, Chris Greig, Elske van de Fliert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Energy poverty is an alarming problem affecting nearly half of the global population who rely on solid fuels for cooking. Numerous interventions are in operation aiming to reduce the number of affected people, yet many have not achieved the desired level of change. This paper offers a novel perspective to conceptualise inertia towards entirely abandoning solid fuels. We explain that cooking with solid fuels is a traditional practice, and, using the Capability Approach, we argue that this practice, which is influenced by persistent social arrangements, could constrain people's capabilities to pursue a flourishing life. It is also argued, applying a practice lens, that the perpetuation of the practice is a product of human agency dominated by established knowledge and other social practices. We postulate that inertia that is holding people from giving up solid fuels is formed around people's perpetual tendency to take recursive actions and refrain from performing new acions, guided by firmly rooted social structure. The paper argues that replacing solid fuels cannot be achieved only by simply giving access to modern fuels and stoves. Instead, it is imperative to understand the social context within which the reproduction of social practices takes place in order to break the structural resistance and enable transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Capability approach
  • Developing countries
  • Energy poverty
  • Practice theory
  • Solid fuels
  • Traditional cooking practice


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