Seeing sanitation:a social scientific account of Christchurch’s post-quake sanitary infrastructure. (2012)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury. School of Social and Political Sciences
AuthorsButler, Andrew Georgeshow all
This thesis is about many things, not least of all the September 4th 2010 and February 22nd 2011 earthquakes that shook Christchurch, New Zealand. A city was shaken, events which worked to lay open the normally invisible yet vital objects, processes and technologies which are the focus of inquiry: the sewers, pipes, pumps, the digital technologies, the land and politics which constitute the Christchurch wastewater networks. The thesis is an eclectic mix drawing together methods and concepts from Bruno Latour, John Law, Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Nigel Thrift, Donna Haraway and Patrick Joyce. It is an exploration of how the technologies and objects of sanitation perform the city, and how such things which are normally hidden and obscured, are made visible. The question of visibility is also turned toward the research itself: how does one observe, and describe? How are sociological visibilities constructed? Through the research, the encountering of objects in the field, the processes of method, the pedagogy of concepts, and the construction of risk, the thesis comes to be understood as a particular kind of social scientific artefact which assembles four different accounts: the first regards the construction of visibility; the second explores Christchurch city from the control room where the urban sanitary infrastructures are monitored; the third chapter looks at the formatted and embodied practices which emerge with the correlation of the city and sanitation; the fourth looks at the changing politics of a city grappling with severely damaged essential services, land and structures. The final chapter considers how the differences between romantic and baroque sensibilities mean that these four accounts elicit knowing not through smoothness or uniformity, but in partiality and non-coherence. This thesis is about pipes, pump stations, and treatment plants; about the effluent of a city; about the messiness of social science when confronted by the equally messy world of wastewater.