New Publication! Special Issue “Infrastructures of Value in Agriculture”

Values—whether financial profit or moral and social values such as justice and sustainability—often appear as abstract and intangible. Infrastructure allows us to explore the materiality of seemingly immaterial value.



The special issue “Infrastructures of Value: New and Historical Materialities in Agriculture” (Ethnos – Journal of Anthropology), edited by Christof Lammer (Klagenfurt) and André Thiemann (Prague) shows how infrastructures and practices of infrastructuring shape value of agricultural matter. Ethnographic studies from Australia, China, Moldova, Serbia and Italy examine land’s financialization, terroir wine and its bottles, eco-certification and alternative food networks as well as the interaction between agronomics and cold chains. As material networks, infrastructures facilitate, channel, or hinder circulation—the metamorphoses as well as movement of objects, people, non-human beings and ideas. In doing so, they mediate value: they give actions and their products importance and relevance by materially integrating them into larger wholes. Thereby, this approach brings attention to materiality to David Graeber’s theory of value. The exploration of infrastructures of value thus offers new perspectives for thinking about the production, appropriation and distribution of material wealth.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Infrastructuring Value* by Christof Lammer & André Thiemann

Infrastructures of Farmland Valuation in Australia* by Sarah R. Sippel

Nature’s Value: Evidencing a Moldovan Terroir Through Scientific Infrastructures* by Daniela Ana 

Peasant in a Bottle: Infrastructures of Containment for an Italian Wine Cooperative* by Oscar Krüger

Valuing Organics: Labels, People, and the Materiality of Information Infrastructure in China* by Christof Lammer

Infrastructuring ‘Red Gold’: Agronomists, Cold Chains, and the Involution of Serbia’s Raspberry Country by André Thiemann

Infrastructuring Value Worlds: Connections and Conventions of Capitalist Accumulation by Edward F. Fischer

(Articles marked with * are open access.)

Christof Lammer is a social anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Science, Technology and Society Studies (STS) at the University of Klagenfurt.

Neuerscheinung! Sepehr, Pouya & Aarden, Erik (2023). Between straight lines and winding alleys: Streets as boundary objects in the transnational modernization of urban planning in Iran. In: De Munck, Bert & Lachmund, Jens, Politics of urban knowledge. Historical perspectives on the shaping and governing of cities. London: Routledge, 179-200.

The introduction of systematic planning was a key ingredient of U.S. policies to bring ‘development’ to large parts of the world in the middle of the twentieth century. Such policies included the development of master plans for various Iranian cities in the 1950s and 1960s. This work involved efforts to know cities in Iran on the one hand, and communicating that knowledge and how to use it in planning on the other. In this chapter, we trace efforts to know Iranian cities and train Iranian planners by posing the question how urban planning as a knowledge practice was established in Iran. We therefore reconstruct the knowledge practices of ‘Western’ planning consultants in Master Plans for two Iranian cities, Esfehan and Sanandaj; how these knowledge practices were received and modified by domestic planning professionals; and how such transnational exchanges contributed to the establishment of planning approaches and institutions in Iran. Based on the analysis of city plans and interviews with Iranian planners, we use the drawing of streets on urban maps as a lens to see how collaboration was possible despite radically different interpretations of the ciy. Treating street maps as ‘boundary objects’ that facilitated communication between different planning communities, we explore urban planning as a political assemblage.

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New Publication! Research Article: Ignorance and the paradoxes of evidence-based global health: the case of mortality statistics in India’s million death study. (Erik Aarden)

Quantitative evidence and metrics play a central role in contemporary global health. Mortality statistics, for example, are considered essential for improving health in the global South. Yet, many observers lament that reliable cause of death data is not available for many low- and middle-income countries. The Million Death Study (MDS) in India forms an effort to address this issue, seeking to reduce ignorance around mortality by generating representative statistics by combining an existing, representative demographic sample with an innovative diagnostic method called verbal autopsy. Yet, ignorance is more than the absence of reliable mortality statistics in this study. Social science perspectives on institutionalized ignorance can help unpack how certain paradoxes of evidence-based global health manifest through three different articulations of ignorance in the MDS. First, the study’s simultaneously national and global ambitions intersect in arguments that present ignorance as legitimation for the study. Second, ignorance is presented as instrumental in balancing the need for expertise with the risk of bias in diagnosing causes of death. Third, MDS researchers dismiss remaining ignorance or uncertainty about diagnoses, by claiming it is relative compared to the ‘actionability’ of study results for improving public health. In exploring these various manifestations of institutionalized ignorance, several paradoxes of the MDS as an evidence-based global health project become visible. By exploring these paradoxes, this analysis suggests that studies of institutionalized ignorance can provide novel perspectives on how deliberate articulations and mobilization of ignorance helps constitute evidence-based global health.

Read the full article here: Ignorance and the paradoxes of evidence-based global health: the case of mortality statistics in India’s million death study

New Publication! Computational modelling within EC’s sustainability impact assessments (Titus Udrea & Anja Bauer)

Between control and independence: computational modelling within EC’s trade sustainability impact assessments

Titus Udrea & Anja Bauer

Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIA) are a central instrument for evidence-based policy-making in EU trade policy. Computational modelling is the main analytical tool to assess the potential economic impacts of trade agreements. While modelling has long been undertaken by external consultancies, for recent SIAs DG Trade conducts the trade modelling itself. Against the background of this shift from external to in-house modelling, the article addresses the (perceived) roles and authority of modelling in SIAs. Based on the notion of models as boundary objects and two recent SIAs, i.e. TTIP and EU-Australia, we sketch the socio-technical arrangements of models in SIAs. We then discuss the different understandings of the role of modelling by policy-makers, experts, and stakeholders. The in-house shift exposes disagreements on the character and function of models. We further reflect on the potential implications of the in-house shift for the authority of models in SIAs. Our study suggests that there are advantages to in-house modelling, such as control, flexibility, and consistency. However, these might come at the expense of the perceived independence of policy appraisals.

Research article published in Impact Assessment & Project Appraisal: