Last spring, as it became clear that fieldwork would not be possible for quite a while, I began work on a desk-based PhD chapter on the rationale for constructed wetlands.
I had been thinking about saying something on the normativities of wastewater treatment and constructed wetlands for a while. In the months of lockdown I worked out exactly what this would look like as a small piece of research. I decided to use published constructed wetland literature as my main source of data, supplemented with a few of the
The questions I focused on were: which rationale are used to argue for constructed wetlands? How does the prevalence of particular rationale vary over time and in different world regions?
So, with a sample of 300 constructed wetland papers, distributed across different time periods and world regions, I set out to analyse what reasons were given why constructed wetlands were a good thing to build. As I conducted my analysis, I dug into some of the STS literature and realised that there was a good connection to be made with the concept of ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’, as introduced by Jasanoff and Kim (2015).
collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed visions of desirable futures, animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social order attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology
The analysis still needs some polishing, but the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries allowed me to think critically about the repeated stories I was finding; about constructed wetland performance, ecologies and economics. By asking ‘what sociotechnical imaginaries are these rationale reinforcing or responding to?‘ I was able to see in the rationale that emerged reflections of how infrastructure is placed within currently hegemonic economic imaginaries, and also different and somewhat contradictory desired futures.