Amanda Marshall: Garbage Matters Notes

  • There is a LOT of money in waste management, and therefore interest
    • Used to study urban history, environmental politics, social behavior, social movements, capitalism, modernity, risk, regulation and governance.
  • Moore argues that garbage ‘disturbs the smooth rubbing of things’
  • Explores how is waste defined (is it positive or negative?), and how is waste related to society
  • Do objects shape society or does society shape objects?

Quadrant 1 (Positivity/Dualist):

  • Waste has specific characteristics and is separate from society. Waste is a hazard, commodity, object of management
  • Hazards result from uneven disposal
    • Unevenly distributed environmental risks.
    • Animal waste, toxic materials
  • Hard to regulate because local pollution could have originated from other, far away areas
  • Waste is also a resource via recycling municipal solid waste management, scavenging etc.
    • Re-enter formal cycles of economic production, or reused in informal systems
  • Valuing waste as a resource could de-marginalize people who depend on scavenging
  • Waste can be a commodity via trading. Circuits of exchange
    • International trade in hazardous waste, electronic waste
  • Waste is something to be managed. Solid waste management
    • Usually arises in urban environments
    • Sustainability
  • Can be seen as an object that exists in space, separate to society. “As a manageable object, waste is open to technical and institutional solutions.”
  • Landfills are a form of archive for society and culture. Used as artifacts
    • A record of previous and contemporary social relationships

Quadrant 2 (Negativity/Dualist):

  • Waste is not given a specific meaning based on a physical characteristic
    • Defined by its inability to be categorized. It is out of place
    • Hard to categorize because what people consider waste is different depending on the culture
  • Waste has played a part in excluding certain groups of people from social, political and physical spaces
    • Border crossers from Mexico are ‘out of place’ litterers
  • Disposing of waste is a constitutive of social and ethical activity
  • Waste has to be seen as dangerous to encourage people to recycle it

Quadrant 3 (Positivity/Relational):

  • Waste is internally related to society. Waste is filthy, and disgusting and needs to be removed from sight/smell
    • Can be provoked to be a powerful political stance. Where to put a dump/waste plant?
  • Waste is a hazard/risk. Focus on risk management and risk posed to different populations
  • Waste as a powerful uncontrollable actor makes it have an emergent relationship with society.
    • Doesn’t look just at physical risks, but on modernization
  • Waste is a fetishized commodity
    • It has a use and exchange value, but it also obscures the social relationships behind its production and circulation
    • Embodies the social relations of its production, but becomes obscure when it is in surplus
  • Objects are temporary

Quadrant 4 (Negativity/Relational):

  • Pays less attention to a specific quality of waste, but sees it as a constitutive element in sociospatial relationship and economics
  • Waste is unvalued and not defined. It is expelled by society in order to shore up individual and societal borders
  • Focuses on the creation of waste as a governable object
  • How waste becomes an object that needs to be managed , how is waste understood and categorized



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