Western Modernity in Crisis: (De)Constructions of Plural and Alternative Forms of Social Organization

Introduction by
Malve Jacobsen and Christiane Tristl
Published
March 25, 2024
Print this Page

We challenge Western modernity’s claim to universality by analyzing the “modernization” of modernity and by opening the view on plural forms of social organization.

Composition of four semicircle objects from the art installation Vermessung unbekannter Materie (measuring of unknown matter) by Andrea Knie, exhibited in RESET.Krise/Chance (RESET.crisis/opportunity) at art museum Ahlen, 2021-22. Also to be found in Padberg 2021.
C

limate crisis, Corona crisis, water shortages, floods, waste-crises, and air pollution. It has become obvious that we live in a period of crisis. Within human geography and adjacent disciplines, these crises—or, rather, this “multiple crisis” (Brand, 2016)—have either been associated with neoliberalism (Jones and Ward, 2002; Larner, 2011) or the general fossilist-capitalist mode of production and living (Brand and Wissen, 2012; Harvey, 2011). While we identify with the observation that capitalist societies tend toward crisis, in this forum we want to argue for a less capitalocentric analysis and instead point to the contingency of possible development paths. We refer to science and technology studies (STS) and actor–network theory (ANT), which, since their inception more than 30 years ago, have predicted periods of crisis and located their causes in the project of Western modernity.

Inspired by STS and ANT, we understand the current environmental, political, and economic crises as a result of modern purification projects with their separation of nature and culture, or technology and society. In line with Latour’s sociology of associations (2005: 10-11), we regard the term “social” as a form of assembling between all (human and non-human) entities. As the argument goes, any divide between the natural world and the social world, or between humans and non-humans, is nothing natural but has been created and established by the modern sciences. The result of Western modernity is a belief in the universal applicability of abstract scientific facts and models as well as neutral technologies. However, studies in technology research have shown that modern infrastructures and technologies are always subject to local adaptation in their global translation and thus their evolutionist and rationalizing concerns are usually not realizable (Latour, 1993; Mitchell, 2002; Rottenburg, 2009). It is precisely the careful work of the purification of these different domains that produces the repoliticization of technologies and unforeseen effects, which challenge previously undisputable scientific knowledge. Consequently, the contemporary crises in all spheres of living represent a crisis of modernity itself.

Latour (1993) argues that “we have never been modern” and that, far from being universal, the practices of modern science are no more and no less cultural than any other culture that has been described by anthropologists. Accordingly, while the discourse of development mobilized the “modern—traditional dichotomy” (Escobar, 1995: 78) to modernize what was assumed to be traditional, Latour argues that we have to treat modern scientific culture symmetrically to all other cultures. Sarr (2016) discusses how the export of modernity to the African continent projected myths of the West onto developmental trajectories in African societies, which they never knew how to grasp. The assumptions of modernization theory collide with the cultural, economic, social, and political complexities of African societies and impose their pattern of interpretation on these plural universes. Sarr (2016, 2022) moreover emphasizes that only what already exists can be developed and, hence, that widening the range of knowledges is not only a theoretical but also a practical necessity. However, modernity is also not without friction in the Global North, since technology cannot simply fix social and ecological problems—a concern that has been discussed in the social sciences for decades (see Johnston, 2018; Rosner, 2004). Moreover, as Tsing (2015) shows by example of the Matsutake trade between the USA and Japan, the future orientation associated with modern progress carries the danger of overlooking or ignoring paths of social organization that do not correspond to the temporal logic of the idea of progress.

Crisis is associated with uncertainty, urgency, and threat and there thus seems to be an immediate need to react—although under unpredictable circumstances (Brinks and Ibert, 2020). We broadly identify two different strands of such reactions to current crises. One is the “modernization” of modernity. As one example, Brand and Wissen (2012: 552) speak of the “ecological modernization,” which finds it expression in the “green economy” or “green growth.” Here, current patterns of production and consumption are reinforced rather than fundamentally challenged. We can understand these developments as acts to remedy the crisis of modernity itself. As second strand of possible reactions, we see dynamic, plural and situated solutions, improvisation and experimentation. We want to emphasize that uncertainty also holds potential because systems and routines must be called into question (Callon et al., 2009). Accepting uncertainty means to put aside (believed to be static) universalisms, which opens the way for experimentation and gradual approaches as well as adjustments and corrections to understanding and living the present alternatively and more relationally (Rickards et al., 2022; Wakefield, 2020). While we do not wish to condemn all the achievements of modern science, the acceptance of uncertainty allows for more humble approaches that take seriously the ills of our time and seek to remedy them rather than the crisis of modernity.

In this forum, we want to utilize this criticism of Western modernity and challenge its claim to universality by first analyzing the “modernization” of modernity and its sidelining or (re)incorporation of alternatives that comes along with it and, second, opening the view on already existing plural forms of social organization amid these struggles. Hence, we need not only to deconstruct and critically reflect on the ambivalences of modernity’s crises but also recognize the latent potential of the present by calling systems and routines into question and promoting the plurality of possible development paths.

As such, the first part of the forum critically analyzes the power dynamics and concomitant difficulties of modernization attempts. It consists of Yusif Idies’s elaborations on “Planting Plastics” in which he investigates recycling practices and describes them as a form of ecological modernization. Likewise, the contribution “(Un)Wrapping Bales: Material Waste Crisis Politics through the Commodification of Mixed Waste” by Nicolas Schlitz, Sonja Potkonjak, Wolfgang Fischer, and Danko Simić deals with practices and matters of waste, taking the example of “modern” waste management in European peripheries. Two further contributions deal with tensions of modernity between the Global South and North. Astrid Matejcek critically examines the role of innovation in modernization approaches and development practices in her article “‘We don’t do sugar-coating!’ – The Tough Business of Digitizing Tanzanian Agriculture.” In “Othering of Urban Infrastructures: Exploring Acts of (Un)Care for Refugees in Berlin,” Sylvana Jahre and Antonie Schmiz challenge the hierarchical and dichotomist understanding of the “modern Global North” and the “disordered Global South” by describing urban infrastructures for refugees in Berlin.

The second part of this forum discusses case studies that show alternative forms of living and understanding the world. Iris Dzudzek’s “Worlding Traditional Medicine in Thailand – Diffracting Taxonomies and Spatiotemporalities” demonstrates that the two realms of bioscience and traditional belief systems are in effect not separate when it comes to scientific world-making practices. The two contributions “Quiet Resistance in Southern Italy,” by Timothy D. Weldon and Sarah Ruth Sippel, and “Cooperative Supermarkets – Toward Democratizing the Food System,” by Christiane Tristl, deal with alternative ways of producing and distributing food and other fundamental means of building and maintaining lives. Drawing on the concept of everyday resistance, Timothy D. Weldon and Sarah Ruth Sippel describe quiet rejection practices of the capitalist system, which they found in rural southern Italy. Christiane Tristl illustrates collective action that offers an alternative to the predominant exploitative food system. Last, in “Digital Commoning As an Alternative Form of Social Organization: The Example of OpenStreetMap,” Susanne Schröder-Bergen and Georg Glasze use the notion of commoning and discuss to what extent OpenStreetMap functions as an alternative form of collectively creating and using geographic information beyond market and state.

References

Brand U (2016) How to get out of the multiple crisis? Contours of a critical theory of social-ecological transformation. Environmental Values 25(5): 503–525.
Brand U and Wissen M (2012) Global environmental politics and the imperial mode of living: Articulations of state–capital relations in the multiple crisis. Globalizations 9(4): 547–560.
Brinks V and Ibert O (2020) From corona virus to corona crisis: The value of an analytical and geographical understanding of crisis. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 111(3): 275–287.
Callon M, Lascoumes P and Barthe Y (2009) Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Escobar A (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Harvey D (2011) Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography—Crises, geographic disruptions and the uneven development of political responses. Economic Geography 87(1): 1–22.
Johnston SF (2018) The technological fix as social cure-all: Origins and implications. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 37(1): 47–54.
Jones M and Ward K (2002) Excavating the logic of British urban policy: Neoliberalism as the “crisis of crisis-management.” Antipode 34(3): 473–494.
Larner W (2011) C-change? Geographies of crisis. Dialogues in Human Geography 1(3): 319–335.
Latour B (2005) Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Latour B (1993) We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Mitchell T (2002) Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Padberg M (ed.) (2021) Reset.Krise/Chance. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Kunstmuseum Ahlen 2021/2022. Cologne: Wienand-Verlag.
Rickards L, Grove K and Wakefield S (2022) Innovation at the limits of social change. In: Ballard R and Barnett C (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Social Change. London: Routledge, pp.142–153.
Rosner L (2004) The Technological Fix: How People Use Technology to Create and Solve Problems. New York: Routledge.
Rottenburg R (2009) Social and public experiments and new figurations of science and politics in postcolonial Africa. Postcolonial Studies 12(4): 423–440.
Sarr F (2016) Afrotopia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Sarr F (2022) Re-building knowledge in African countries. Global Africa 1: Tomorrow’s Africas, Worlds and Knowledge, 126–133. Available here.
Tsing AL (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Wakefield S (2020) Anthropocene Back Loop. Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Space. London: Open Humanities Press.

Malve Jacobsen is a postdoctoral researcher in cultural geography at Mainz University. Her current research focuses on the transforming relationships between air, humans, technologies, plants, and particles.

Christiane Tristl is a heterodox economic geographer at Münster University. Her research focuses on big tech companies and digital technologies, the marketization of water in a South–North perspective, critical agri-food studies, and the unearthing of alternative presents.

essays in this forum

Worlding Traditional Medicine in Thailand: Diffracting Taxonomies and Spatiotemporalities

The seemingly separate worlds of biomedicine and traditional medicine diffract when observed through the lens of their practitioners' world-making practices.

By

Iris Dzudzek

Quiet Resistance in Southern Italy

Drawing and expanding upon the concept of everyday resistance, this essay identifies implicit, less overt, and hence rather “quiet” everyday resistance practices in rural southern Italy.

By

Timothy D. Weldon and Sarah Ruth Sippel

Cooperative Supermarkets: Toward Democratizing the Food System

This essay discusses the potentials and societal constraints of cooperative supermarkets to democratize the food system. It argues for the supermarkets to stabilize with small-scale and regional production, envisioning its members as engaged food system crafters.

By

Christiane Tristl

Digital Commoning as an Alternative Form of Social Organization: The Example of OpenStreetMap

The conceptualisation of OpenStreetMap as digital commoning draws attention to the rules that enable an alternative form of geospatial data production.

By

Susanne Schröder-Bergen and Georg Glasze

Planting Plastics: How Chemical Recycling Perpetuates the Waste Crisis

As long as industrial plastic recycling dominates conceptions of the circular economy at the expense of more participative elements, the planting of plastics is its immediate consequence.

By

Yusif Idies

(Un)wrapping Bales: Ecoballe as Spatial and Material Waste Crisis Politics

Piled in layers, always in multiples. Peculiar voluminous cubes and cylinders covered by plastic foil-coating, filled with mixed municipal solid wastes, appear in large numbers along marginalized areas of the European periphery.

By

Nicolas Schlitz, Danko Simić, Sanja Potkonjak, Wolfgang Fischer

"We don't do sugar-coating!": The Tough Business of Digitizing Tanzanian Agriculture

In a pilot project, the East African tech-company mShamba is adapting an e-extension system called iPlus to the context of a Tanzanian village. This essay discusses the contradictory implications of experimental approaches with private sector innovation in agricultural development.

By

Astrid Matejcek

Othering of Urban Infrastructures: Exploring Acts of (Un)Care for refugees in Berlin

This article presents an argument that delves into the concepts of promise, uncare, and the burden of proof as fundamental infrastructural practices that shape the experiences of refugees in Berlin.

By

Sylvana Jahre and Antonie Schmiz

Western Modernity in Crisis: (De)Constructions of Plural and Alternative Forms of Social Organization

Back to Web Version

S

cholars and practitioners of urban planning need to rethink the field’s futures at this important historical juncture: some might call it a moment of truth when there is little left to hide. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many cracks, contradictions, and inequalities that have always existed but are now more visible. This also includes the global vaccine apartheid that is ongoing as I write these words. Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

What’s a Rich Text element?

Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

  • Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed.
  • Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real.
  • They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining.
  • I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

What’s a Rich Text element?

Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

  1. Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed.
  2. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real.
  3. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

What’s a Rich Text element?

Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

What’s a Rich Text element?

Moreover, this is a time when the violence through which U.S. imperialism has exercised power worldwide is increasingly exposed. Protests in the summer of 2020, which spread all over the United States like fire through a long-dried haystack, showed Americans and the whole world that racialized violence and police brutality are real. They also revealed that such brutality is spatially facilitated in American apartheid—a condition that planning has been far from innocent in creating and maintaining. I think this reckoning is particularly important in the United States, the belly of the beast, where there might have been more of an illusion about planning innocence.

What’s a Rich Text element?

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Composition of four semicircle objects from the art installation Vermessung unbekannter Materie (measuring of unknown matter) by Andrea Knie, exhibited in RESET.Krise/Chance (RESET.crisis/opportunity) at art museum Ahlen, 2021-22. Also to be found in Padberg 2021.
C

limate crisis, Corona crisis, water shortages, floods, waste-crises, and air pollution. It has become obvious that we live in a period of crisis. Within human geography and adjacent disciplines, these crises—or, rather, this “multiple crisis” (Brand, 2016)—have either been associated with neoliberalism (Jones and Ward, 2002; Larner, 2011) or the general fossilist-capitalist mode of production and living (Brand and Wissen, 2012; Harvey, 2011). While we identify with the observation that capitalist societies tend toward crisis, in this forum we want to argue for a less capitalocentric analysis and instead point to the contingency of possible development paths. We refer to science and technology studies (STS) and actor–network theory (ANT), which, since their inception more than 30 years ago, have predicted periods of crisis and located their causes in the project of Western modernity.

Inspired by STS and ANT, we understand the current environmental, political, and economic crises as a result of modern purification projects with their separation of nature and culture, or technology and society. In line with Latour’s sociology of associations (2005: 10-11), we regard the term “social” as a form of assembling between all (human and non-human) entities. As the argument goes, any divide between the natural world and the social world, or between humans and non-humans, is nothing natural but has been created and established by the modern sciences. The result of Western modernity is a belief in the universal applicability of abstract scientific facts and models as well as neutral technologies. However, studies in technology research have shown that modern infrastructures and technologies are always subject to local adaptation in their global translation and thus their evolutionist and rationalizing concerns are usually not realizable (Latour, 1993; Mitchell, 2002; Rottenburg, 2009). It is precisely the careful work of the purification of these different domains that produces the repoliticization of technologies and unforeseen effects, which challenge previously undisputable scientific knowledge. Consequently, the contemporary crises in all spheres of living represent a crisis of modernity itself.

Latour (1993) argues that “we have never been modern” and that, far from being universal, the practices of modern science are no more and no less cultural than any other culture that has been described by anthropologists. Accordingly, while the discourse of development mobilized the “modern—traditional dichotomy” (Escobar, 1995: 78) to modernize what was assumed to be traditional, Latour argues that we have to treat modern scientific culture symmetrically to all other cultures. Sarr (2016) discusses how the export of modernity to the African continent projected myths of the West onto developmental trajectories in African societies, which they never knew how to grasp. The assumptions of modernization theory collide with the cultural, economic, social, and political complexities of African societies and impose their pattern of interpretation on these plural universes. Sarr (2016, 2022) moreover emphasizes that only what already exists can be developed and, hence, that widening the range of knowledges is not only a theoretical but also a practical necessity. However, modernity is also not without friction in the Global North, since technology cannot simply fix social and ecological problems—a concern that has been discussed in the social sciences for decades (see Johnston, 2018; Rosner, 2004). Moreover, as Tsing (2015) shows by example of the Matsutake trade between the USA and Japan, the future orientation associated with modern progress carries the danger of overlooking or ignoring paths of social organization that do not correspond to the temporal logic of the idea of progress.

Crisis is associated with uncertainty, urgency, and threat and there thus seems to be an immediate need to react—although under unpredictable circumstances (Brinks and Ibert, 2020). We broadly identify two different strands of such reactions to current crises. One is the “modernization” of modernity. As one example, Brand and Wissen (2012: 552) speak of the “ecological modernization,” which finds it expression in the “green economy” or “green growth.” Here, current patterns of production and consumption are reinforced rather than fundamentally challenged. We can understand these developments as acts to remedy the crisis of modernity itself. As second strand of possible reactions, we see dynamic, plural and situated solutions, improvisation and experimentation. We want to emphasize that uncertainty also holds potential because systems and routines must be called into question (Callon et al., 2009). Accepting uncertainty means to put aside (believed to be static) universalisms, which opens the way for experimentation and gradual approaches as well as adjustments and corrections to understanding and living the present alternatively and more relationally (Rickards et al., 2022; Wakefield, 2020). While we do not wish to condemn all the achievements of modern science, the acceptance of uncertainty allows for more humble approaches that take seriously the ills of our time and seek to remedy them rather than the crisis of modernity.

In this forum, we want to utilize this criticism of Western modernity and challenge its claim to universality by first analyzing the “modernization” of modernity and its sidelining or (re)incorporation of alternatives that comes along with it and, second, opening the view on already existing plural forms of social organization amid these struggles. Hence, we need not only to deconstruct and critically reflect on the ambivalences of modernity’s crises but also recognize the latent potential of the present by calling systems and routines into question and promoting the plurality of possible development paths.

As such, the first part of the forum critically analyzes the power dynamics and concomitant difficulties of modernization attempts. It consists of Yusif Idies’s elaborations on “Planting Plastics” in which he investigates recycling practices and describes them as a form of ecological modernization. Likewise, the contribution “(Un)Wrapping Bales: Material Waste Crisis Politics through the Commodification of Mixed Waste” by Nicolas Schlitz, Sonja Potkonjak, Wolfgang Fischer, and Danko Simić deals with practices and matters of waste, taking the example of “modern” waste management in European peripheries. Two further contributions deal with tensions of modernity between the Global South and North. Astrid Matejcek critically examines the role of innovation in modernization approaches and development practices in her article “‘We don’t do sugar-coating!’ – The Tough Business of Digitizing Tanzanian Agriculture.” In “Othering of Urban Infrastructures: Exploring Acts of (Un)Care for Refugees in Berlin,” Sylvana Jahre and Antonie Schmiz challenge the hierarchical and dichotomist understanding of the “modern Global North” and the “disordered Global South” by describing urban infrastructures for refugees in Berlin.

The second part of this forum discusses case studies that show alternative forms of living and understanding the world. Iris Dzudzek’s “Worlding Traditional Medicine in Thailand – Diffracting Taxonomies and Spatiotemporalities” demonstrates that the two realms of bioscience and traditional belief systems are in effect not separate when it comes to scientific world-making practices. The two contributions “Quiet Resistance in Southern Italy,” by Timothy D. Weldon and Sarah Ruth Sippel, and “Cooperative Supermarkets – Toward Democratizing the Food System,” by Christiane Tristl, deal with alternative ways of producing and distributing food and other fundamental means of building and maintaining lives. Drawing on the concept of everyday resistance, Timothy D. Weldon and Sarah Ruth Sippel describe quiet rejection practices of the capitalist system, which they found in rural southern Italy. Christiane Tristl illustrates collective action that offers an alternative to the predominant exploitative food system. Last, in “Digital Commoning As an Alternative Form of Social Organization: The Example of OpenStreetMap,” Susanne Schröder-Bergen and Georg Glasze use the notion of commoning and discuss to what extent OpenStreetMap functions as an alternative form of collectively creating and using geographic information beyond market and state.

References

Brand U (2016) How to get out of the multiple crisis? Contours of a critical theory of social-ecological transformation. Environmental Values 25(5): 503–525.
Brand U and Wissen M (2012) Global environmental politics and the imperial mode of living: Articulations of state–capital relations in the multiple crisis. Globalizations 9(4): 547–560.
Brinks V and Ibert O (2020) From corona virus to corona crisis: The value of an analytical and geographical understanding of crisis. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 111(3): 275–287.
Callon M, Lascoumes P and Barthe Y (2009) Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Escobar A (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Harvey D (2011) Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography—Crises, geographic disruptions and the uneven development of political responses. Economic Geography 87(1): 1–22.
Johnston SF (2018) The technological fix as social cure-all: Origins and implications. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 37(1): 47–54.
Jones M and Ward K (2002) Excavating the logic of British urban policy: Neoliberalism as the “crisis of crisis-management.” Antipode 34(3): 473–494.
Larner W (2011) C-change? Geographies of crisis. Dialogues in Human Geography 1(3): 319–335.
Latour B (2005) Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Latour B (1993) We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Mitchell T (2002) Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Padberg M (ed.) (2021) Reset.Krise/Chance. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Kunstmuseum Ahlen 2021/2022. Cologne: Wienand-Verlag.
Rickards L, Grove K and Wakefield S (2022) Innovation at the limits of social change. In: Ballard R and Barnett C (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Social Change. London: Routledge, pp.142–153.
Rosner L (2004) The Technological Fix: How People Use Technology to Create and Solve Problems. New York: Routledge.
Rottenburg R (2009) Social and public experiments and new figurations of science and politics in postcolonial Africa. Postcolonial Studies 12(4): 423–440.
Sarr F (2016) Afrotopia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Sarr F (2022) Re-building knowledge in African countries. Global Africa 1: Tomorrow’s Africas, Worlds and Knowledge, 126–133. Available here.
Tsing AL (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Wakefield S (2020) Anthropocene Back Loop. Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Space. London: Open Humanities Press.

Malve Jacobsen is a postdoctoral researcher in cultural geography at Mainz University. Her current research focuses on the transforming relationships between air, humans, technologies, plants, and particles.

Christiane Tristl is a heterodox economic geographer at Münster University. Her research focuses on big tech companies and digital technologies, the marketization of water in a South–North perspective, critical agri-food studies, and the unearthing of alternative presents.