‘Ecologies of quantification in waste management: Landfilling, e-waste recycling, and car breaking’ paper in Critique of Anthropology
Sosna, D., Stehlíková, B. and Mašek, P. (2023) Ecologies of quantification in waste management: Landfilling, e-waste recycling, and car breaking, Critique of Anthropology. DOI: 10.1177/0308275X2312059
Quantification has become a privileged form of knowing and vehicle of governance. Anthropological critique has demonstrated that a view of numbers as independent carriers of meaning is untenable; instead, numbers should be conceptualized as being part of relations and temporalities, opening space for shifts in understanding. Proposing the perspective of ‘ecologies of quantification’, we acknowledge the wider notion of ecology that accommodates materiality, cognition, and experience, and acknowledges that the constituents of the relations are always in a process of becoming. We put waste management at the centre of our interest to explore the ways quantification attempts to conquer arguably one of the unruliest domains of contemporary social life. Based on our collaborative ethnographic research on the management of municipal solid waste, discarded electrical and electronic devices, and junked cars in Czechia, we point to problems emerging when numbers become stripped of their relations. Our research sheds light on experience in the process of quantification and demonstrates that there are multiple ways to know quantity.