Reading Yes to Life = No to Mining:”...

This strik­ing art­icle from Diane Nel­son — in SF Online’s spe­cial issue: Life (Un)ltd—has stuck with me over the last few weeks.

Nel­son, D. (2013). Yes to Life = No to Min­ing:” Count­ing as Bio­tech­no­logy in Life (Ltd) Guatem­ala. The Schol­ar and Fem­in­ist Online, 11(3).

Nel­son weaves togeth­er a com­pel­ling if some­what bleak story of min­ing in Guatem­ala and the impact it is hav­ing on small vil­lages and loc­al people. What she does espe­cially well is show the com­plex­it­ies of the min­ing industry’s pres­ence in the moun­tains of Guatem­ala and the many dif­fer­ent issues at stake for the mul­tiple act­ors (human and non­hu­man). Without a doubt, she paints a vivid pic­ture in sup­port of the people labour­ing in the mines and affected my the huge phys­ic­al pres­ence of the min­ing industry, but at the same time she cap­tures the uncer­tain­ties and occa­sion­al doubts the loc­als them­selves have in mobil­ising a clear cut case against min­ing.

I explore struggles over dif­fer­ences in live-ability and response-ability.”

Rel­ev­ant for me are Nel­son’s thoughts on count­ing and account­ing. She sheds light on the modes of count­ing — the rep­er­toires and regimes — and what kinds of author­ity they afford. At the same time, she reveals the real ten­sions that arise in try­ing to use num­ber to cap­ture and (re)produce the worlds we make.

How do you bal­ance — without par­tic­u­larly accur­ate inform­a­tion — quet­zales to cuer­das of land, wages to labor, hopes for pro­gress, devel­op­ment, and the will to improve,” to war’s dev­ast­a­tion and the impossible exist­ing rela­tions of pro­duc­tion?”

I’m reminded, in Nel­son’s piece, of Helen Ver­ran’s amaz­ing book , and it relates closely with a few oth­er works I’ve been read­ing on count­ing and num­ber:

Beer, D. (2015). Pro­duct­ive meas­ures: Cul­ture and meas­ure­ment in the con­text of every­day neo­lib­er­al­ism. Big Data & Soci­ety, 2(1), 1 – 12.

Fel­ski, R. (2002). Telling Time in Fem­in­ist The­ory. Tulsa Stud­ies in Women’s Lit­er­at­ure, 21(1), 21.

Skeggs, B. (2014). Val­ues bey­ond value? Is any­thing bey­ond the logic of cap­it­al? The Brit­ish Journ­al of Soci­ology, 65(1), 1 – 20.

Ver­ran, H. (2013). Num­bers per­form­ing nature in quant­it­at­ive valu­ing. Nature­Cul­ture, 2, 23 – 37.

Ver­ran, H. (2001) Sci­ence and An Afric­an Logic. Lon­don: Uni­ver­sity of Chica­go Press.

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