Constructing Normality Through Material and Social Lock-In: The Dynamics of Energy Consumption Among Geneva’s More Affluent Households

  • Marlyne Sahakian


This chapter explores the underpinning dimensions of energy-using practices among an affluent social group in Geneva, or households who self-identify as being part of the expatriate population. We demonstrate how people can be locked into certain consumption practices by their physical possessions, a form of material lock-in, but also by social status and power dynamics, what we term social lock-in. Much of this has to do with expectations around social norms, or how normality is constructed within this social group and across different consumption spaces, and the critical role of norms in holding practices together over time. Opportunities for destabilizing practices and challenging expectations around energy consumption are discussed, including the role of demonstration sites, the value of time and the significance of social networks.



This chapter benefited from the careful review of the editors, and I greatly appreciate their constructive feedback and comments. Many thanks to my colleague Béatrice Bertho at the University of Lausanne for her precious collaboration on research design, implementation and analysis. I also thank all the women who graciously agreed to be interviewed for this study and opened their homes to me. The Swiss National Science Foundation is gratefully acknowledged for funding this project, under the National Research Program on Managing Energy Transitions (NRP71), coordinated by Suren Erkman at the University of Lausanne and co-coordinated by Marlyne Sahakian, at the University of Geneva as of August 2017. Much of the research on which this paper was based was undertaken during her time at the University of Lausanne.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlyne Sahakian
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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