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Techno-Scientific Numbers as fields of mobilization

By Andrea Ballestero

In 2012, Costa Rican social movements halted a Canadian corporation from going forward, with the approval of the government, to construct the first open pit gold mine in the country. Also in 2012, despite their intense mobilization, social movements failed to persuade Congress to pass a constitutional reform to declare water access a human right. Stopping a giant transnational mining corporation backed by the government’s neoliberal policies proved easier than creating consensus amongst congress representatives to promote citizen involvement and reiterate the public nature of water. In both instances, techno-scientific knowledge was at the core of their mobilization. Geological maps, hydrological flows, biodiversity extinction rates and indices, economic calculations of financial benefits—all of them ultimately circulating in the form of numerical figures—shaped the political struggles of the activists and their radically different outcomes. In this short essay I want to draw our attention in two directions. First, towards the question of “who” are the participants in the social movements that we study. And, second, to the issue of the peculiar and changing social values of numbers, the ultimate tokens of techno-scientific knowledge.   Continue reading

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