Federal University Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria

Mapping of Social Lives of Waste Electronics (E-Waste) in Nigeria’s Second-Hand Commodity Space

A. A. Akintunde

Keywords: Second-hand, ‘born-again’, sociography, tokunbo, social action


In explaining used-objects’ materiality, emphases have always been on abjection and terminality of these objects, especially as used-objects such as used-electronics are often classified as e-wastes, thereby denying their biographies and possible life experiences when discarded by initial users. This paper attempts to provide a sociography of usedobjects in Ngeria with a focus on how the materiality of these usedobjects is socially constructed. Using the notion of sociography, the paper examines the subjective and empirical value of used electronics within the context of reuse and social relations of second-hand culture of consumption and merchandise in Lagos, Nigeria. Findings indicate that Nigerian e-wastes are symbolically “born again” within three basic sociographies identified as commodity sociography, fabricate sociography and the regenerate sociography. These illustrate the materiality of West-used, non-functioning and discarded electronics voyage from meanings of abjection and materially terminal lifespans in the West are transformed into symbolic indeterminate lifetimes after importation into Nigeria. The three sociographies show that there is reinvention of waste into tradable goods. In this sense, used objects in Nigerian second-hand commodity space undergo a transition from abjection and debasement, into valuable biographies that make these used-objects not to be seen and treated as waste any more. The paper concludes that there is a shift from ‘lifespan’ to socially constructed ‘lifetime’ dimensions of used objects in the Nigerian second-hand commodity space. Thus, the paper urges re-thinking of e-waste policies in Nigeria that are currently rooted in material abjection (toxicology) and finitude (obsolescence); to situate e-waste policy design within the direction of symbolic significance by social actors.

Author Biography

A. A. Akintunde

Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria;

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