Spectacular Technology, Invisible Harms: Witnessing Techno-science on Waste Tours in China

Amy Zhang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Investment in science, technologies, and infrastructures has been a critical aspect of China’s development strategy since the early 2000s. China’s national policies designated waste-to-energy (WtE) incinerators as the dominant end-of-life technology to bring about a form of modern and sustainable waste treatment that can turn waste into energy while eliminating pollution. Amid rising citizen skepticism over the safety and efficacy of this technology in China and elsewhere, this article examines the genre of the orchestrated waste tour, which seeks to place the public as witnesses to state performances of technological improvement. Tours to waste facilities illuminate the generic conventions and strategies that China’s late-socialist mode of green techno-scientific governance relied on to legitimize its achievement of environmental improvement. Tours did not produce passive observers. Through an in-depth discussion of a waste tour in Guangzhou, this paper documents that opportunities for firsthand encounters of WtE incinerators provided a forum for those suspicious of the state’s claims of techno-science to form counternarratives.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalScience Technology and Human Values
    StateAccepted/In press - 2024


    • China
    • environmental governance
    • public participation
    • technology
    • waste
    • witnessing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Human-Computer Interaction


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