For some, recycling is a big business; for others a moralised way of engaging with the world. But, for many, this is a dangerous way of earning a living. With scrap now being the largest export category from the US to China, the sheer scale of this global trade has not yet been clearly identified or analysed. Combining fine-grained ethnographic analysis with overviews of international material flows, Economies of Recycling radically changes the way we understand global and local economies as well as the new social relations and identities created by recycling processes. Following global material chains, this groundbreaking book reveals astonishing connections between persons, households, cities and global regions as objects are reworked, taken to pieces and traded.
With case studies from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, China, the former Soviet Union, North America and Europe, Economies of Recycling shows how marginal economies are producing new social collectives and projects around local and global decay, often with waste labour bringing high monetary reward as well as danger. Replacing the persistent notion of globally peripheral countries being ransacked for raw materials, which are then transformed into valuable commodities in the North, this timely collection debunks common linear understandings of production, exchange and consumption and argues for a complete re-evaluation of North-South economic relationships.
Chapter 1: Introduction - Catherine Alexander, Joshua Reno
Part I: Global Waste Flows
Chapter 2: "No Junk for Jesus": Redemptive Economies and Value Conversions in Lutheran Medical Relief Agencies - Britt Halvorson
Chapter 3: Pandora and the Phoenix: end-of-life ships and secondary markets - Nicky Gregson et al
Chapter 4: Economies of Nuclearity: Morality and Energopolitics - Romain Garcier
Chapter 5: The Global Shadow Network: Transnational Flows of E-Waste and its Localization in China - Xin Tong, Jici Wang
Part II: The Ethics of Waste Labour
Chapter 6: Valuing the Dirty Work: Gendered Trashwork in Participatory Dakar - Rosalind Fredericks
Chapter 7: Stitching curtains, grinding plastic: the transformation of workers and things in Buenos Aires - Karen Faulk
Chapter 8: Contested meanings of work in Rio de Janeiro's recycling economy -Kathleen Millar
Chapter 9: Sympathy and its Material Boundaries: Necropolitics, Labor and Waste on the Hooghly River - Laura Bear
Part III: Traces of former lives
Chapter 10. Economies of moral fiber: materializing the ambiguities of recycling charity into aid blanket - Lucy Norris
Chapter 11. Evident excess: material deposits and American narcotics surveillance - Joshua Reno
Chapter 12. Remont: works in progress - Catherine Alexander
Chapter 13. Afterword - David Graeber
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Catherine Alexander is a professor of anthropology at Durham University. Most of her work is concerned with shifting configurations of state, market, society and the third sector. This has also informed her work on waste. She has published on the community waste and recycling sector in Britain and waste as material and metaphor in Kazakhstan. Her current research is on attempts to revitalize Kazakhstan's nuclear energy industry, reusing expertise and equipment left over from the Cold War.
Joshua Reno is an assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University and is primarily interested in the intersections between environmental issues and science and technology. He conducted his doctoral fieldwork on transnational waste circulation and mega-landfills, their transformation of landscapes, lives and communities in rural Michigan, and their relationship to environmental politics and neoliberalism. From 2008 to 2010 he studied emerging European technologies in the fields of health and the environment, their innovation, contestation and governance. He has written articles on waste, energy, communication and material culture.