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Place, People and Processes in Waste Theory: A Global South Critique

Bell, Lucy (2018) Place, People and Processes in Waste Theory: A Global South Critique Cultural Studies, 33 (1). pp. 98-121.

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Living Waste Article for Cultural Studies. Final accepted version for Open Access.docx - Accepted version Manuscript

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Scholars across the humanities and social sciences have long sought to theorize waste, and more particularly the relationships between humans – their history, society, culture, art and thought – and their discards. My contention, though, is that these theories, since Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger (1966) and Thompson’s Rubbish Theory (1979), have been predominantly based in and on global North contexts and, concomitantly, have taken as their axiom the distance between our cultures, lives, experiences and our material rejects. By intersecting existing cultural theories of waste with two important emerging schools of thought – environmental justice and new materialism – I argue that the exclusion or side-lining of places, notably in the global South, where countless people live on a day-to-day basis with, on, and off waste, leads to certain imbalances, biases and gaps. Most notably, the livingness and agency of material rejects is often overlooked in theories that oppose humans and other-than-human waste. By way of conclusion, I propose the notion of ‘living waste’ – a more literal and material take on Bauman’s well-known concept ‘wasted lives’ – as a new point of departure for a reconceptualization of waste that might escape the prevailing dualisms and account simultaneously for ‘full-belly’ and ‘empty-belly’ contexts, human (wasted) lives and other-than-human waste materials, and understandings of lived experiences of waste.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages
Authors :
Date : 15 January 2018
Funders : AHRC
DOI : 10.1080/09502386.2017.1420810
Copyright Disclaimer : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cultural Studies on 15 January 2018, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords : waste theory; environmental justice; new materialism; global South; decoloniality; cultural studies.
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 09 Jan 2018 14:17
Last Modified : 15 Jul 2019 02:08

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