Article on diesel scandal published

The article can be found here.


The current article uses insights from actor network theory (ANT) to analyze and explain how the current situation regarding European diesel engines in passenger vehicles has become a locked-in affair of blame and technological stigma. Beginning with the development of EU emission standards in the early 1990s and culminating in the diesel scandal that came to light in September 2015, we reconstruct this process by describing the emergence of a translational blame game involving policy makers, carmakers, and environmental protection associations in Germany and beyond. We argue that it was the performative enactment of the blame game that has given the diesel compression-ignition engine a certain identity and, by so doing, turned it into a concrete actant. Although there may be different problem framings and interpretations, they ultimately became united in a single narrative that reconciles differences and avoids multiplicity by portraying the diesel engine as the “dirty” villain in the struggle for clean mobility. Thus, the diesel engine is now considered a technology of the past. We argue that it was the unique constellation of the actor networks involved that framed diesel engines in such a way that there are hardly any advocates of the engine left: the diesel engine as actant has ended up being a source of health-related hazards and therefore needs to be phased out.