Composing Urban Orders from Rubbish Electronics: Cityness and the Site Multiple


What do cities look like when rubbish electronics are the vehicle with which they are explored? This article is an experiment designed to offer a response to that question, and in doing so to productively intervene in the conversation about ‘cityness’, ‘metrocentricity’ and ‘subaltern urbanism’. We intervene by following flows of rubbish electronics and the action that enacts them as waste and value, drawing on fieldwork in Dhaka, Singapore, Accra and Canada’s Greater Golden Horseshoe. Our intervention is an experiment in writing an urban geography of rubbish electronics as a site multiple. We show how following the circulation of rubbish electronics offers a manyfolded synopsis of cities: urban enclaves of high finance and the information economy are also industrial waste producers. Peri-urban industrial zones are also managers of brands, legal liability and corporate public relations. Cities off the map are also urban innovation systems, while waste is rekindled as value and accumulated as poison. Thereby we suggest how a sensitivity to the site multiple may be a helpful way of grappling with shifting ontology and the performativity of our research practices in urban studies.