University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Biggish Data: Friedrich Engels, Material Ecology, and Victorian Data

Parham, John (2019) Biggish Data: Friedrich Engels, Material Ecology, and Victorian Data. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 6 (3). pp. 343-364. ISSN 2325-4815

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Through Friedrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), this article examines two prominent themes in environmental humanities – vital ecological materialism and ‘big data’. Engels’ vivid descriptions of factories, houses, and environment shared the central tenets of ‘material ecology’ – ‘thing power’ (Jane Bennett); ‘intra-actions’ of social and material agency (Karen Barad); ‘trans-corporeality’ (Stacy Alaimo) – and met Bennett’s call to align vital and historical materialism. The main body of the paper connects his analysis both to current debates about integrating ‘big data’ into social science and the humanities and to comparable nineteenth-century developments in statistics and data visualisation. Engels articulated the working-class condition by blending four distinct modes of investigation: big data; qualitative survey research; literary thick description; and theory (the nascent critique of capitalist political economy). Such a mix remains rich with possibilities for sociology and humanities not only in communicating but in generating knowledge about complex ecologies.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published online by Taylor & Francis in the European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology on 17 Apr 2019, available online:

Staff and students at the University of Worcester have access to the full-text of the published version via the UW online Library Search. External users should check availability with their local library or Interlibrary Requests Service.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Friedrich Engels, materialism, big data, intra-action, transcorporeality, environmental humanities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
SWORD Depositor: Prof. Pub Router
Depositing User: John Parham
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2019 14:05
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2020 01:00

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