Composing urban orders from rubbish electronics : cityness and the site multiple

Josh LEPAWSKY, Grace AKESE, Mostaem BILLAH, Creighton CONNOLLY, Chris MCNABB

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-199
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number2
Early online date31 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This article is based on research funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council project, Mapping the International Trade and Traffic of Electronic Waste. The project was conceptualized by Lepawsky and fieldwork conducted in conjunction with Akese (Ghana), Billah (Bangladesh), Connolly (Singapore) and McNabb (Canada and US). Analysis, writing and preparation for this article was undertaken primarily by Lepawsky. Other authors are listed alphabetically.


  • Accra, Ghana
  • Canada
  • Cityness
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Metrocentricity
  • Ontario
  • Rubbish electronics
  • Singapore
  • Site multiple
  • Subaltern urbanism
  • Value
  • Waste


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