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Doing It Right: Strange Alliances and Material Arrangements of Honesty in Delhi, the Recycling Capital of India


· Julia Perczel University of Manchester (Manchester, United Kingdom)


07/29 | 11:20-11:40 UTC+2/CEST


This paper builds on twelve months of research in New Delhi, India, during which I was following the formal value chain of a Producers’ Responsibility Organisation (PRO), a for-profit company regularising e-waste recycling. The paper will describe the PRO’s value chain and its efforts to achieve an honestly environment-friendly operation by complying with the law. Also, it will trace how the smooth corporate-sector startup ends up creating links with the kinship-dominated computer scrap trade in a peripheral neighbourhood of the metropolis.

The main focus of the paper is to explore how the demands of the right way to recycle creates entanglements across social hierarchies and between humans and material formations. It seeks to answer the the following questions: What are the material arrangements through which the PRO can assert its self-legitimacy and do the right thing? What are the effects of these material arrangements of honesty? This inquiry will reveal Delhi as the site of strange associations and alliances: between paper documents and electronic discards; between kinship network and corporate sector efficiency; and between destruction and the creation of value. Besides its reputation as one of the most polluted cities in the world, Delhi is also the recycling capital of India and this booming sector reveals as much about people’s changing hopes and desires as about the emerging role of cities as ecological actors.

My focus on the periphery as a site of potential for accumulating wealth and production of value from discards and second-hand material throws light on the intense ecological changes and their socio-material effects in urban India.