Authors:Daniel Neyland (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Véra Ehrenstein (University College London)
Paper short abstract:
Cement is an endlessly exciting compound at the heart of the ambivalent modernist project. We will suggest a focus on compounds provides an opportunity to reconsider how material forms can become bearers of responsibilities and accountabilities.
Paper long abstract:
Cement is an endlessly exciting compound at the heart of the ambivalent modernist project. Limestone, clay, fuels, and heat combine to envelope an ever changing array of material responsibilities for which cement will be held accountable - for its structural endurance, integrity, financial viability, purity, connectivity, CO2 emissions, destruction of nature, and brutalism, among many others. While current Science and Technology Studies (STS) approaches to accountability and responsibility tend to focus on nonhumans as participants in only the distribution and assessment of relations of responsibility and accountability, cement suggests we need new means to make sense of material forms as bearers of responsibilities, active in the discharge of accountabilities. The plural form is vital here. Cement must accountably prove its ability to take on multiple responsibilities at the same time and in the same moment. And new compounds potentially transform the responsibilities and accountabilities at stake. Eco-cement, for example, must prove simultaneously to be materially enduring, environmentally friendly and financially viable. And yet to flourish, the new compound must also disprove its challengers who argue that it is a threat to the cement industry, is itself resource intensive, cannot be produced at a large-scale or fails to attain construction standards for durability. Drawn from on-going research on the cement industry, this presentation will suggest that a focus on compounds usefully provides an opportunity to reconsider how material forms can become bearers of responsibilities and accountabilities.