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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Planned obsolescence, circular economies and ecologies of electronic devices in transdisciplinary perspective

Planned obsolescence, circular economies and ecologies of electronic devices in transdisciplinary perspective

Members of the Research Team

  • Prof. Dr. Uli Beisel; Culture and Technology; University of Bayreuth, uli.beisel@uni-bayreuth.de
  • Prof. Dr. Ruth Freitag, Chair of Process Biotechnology, University of Bayreuth, ruth.freitag@uni-bayreuth.de
  • Prof. Dr. Erdmute Alber, Chair of Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth, erdmute.alber@uni-bayreuth.de
  • Prof. Dr. Christina Roth, Lehrstuhl Werkstoffverfahrenstechnik, University of Bayreuth, Christina.roth@uni-bayreuth.de
  • Dr. John Kuumuori Ganle, School of Public Health, University of Ghana, jganle@ug.edu.gh
  • Dr. Grace Akese, Culture and Technology; University of Bayreuth, grace.akese@uni-bayreuth.de


Planned obsolescence denotes design practices that are assumed to build an artificially limited life into a technical device. This discourse links electronic waste to the logics of capitalism and renders the design of devices into a process imbued with politics. It also transforms the electronic product into waste, or rather into a material object that has outlived its intended usage patterns. However, the fact that an electronic device has reached its intentioned shelf-life does not mean its life is over. To the contrary, this is a moment, where the device enters into different processes of transfer and transformation. In this project that combines anthropology and engineering studies we are interested in the intentioned and improvised registers of mobility of electronic devices – their physical circulations, their composition through design, repair and maintenance, as well as the attendant material-semiotic transformations of the devices themselves. We propose to study these mobilities between Germany and Ghana and their effects along the lives of two electronic devices: mobile phones and fridges. In this we are interested in how mobile electronic devices are transforming and being transformed while they travel from cradle to grave/cradle?


48 months, starting date: 01.10.2019

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