Geography does trash

Geography is a science of earthly lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena. Waste and discards shape, are shaped by, and re/disappear in these landscapes, and it would seem that geography has taken notice.  In the upcoming American Association of Geographer‘s Conference in New York this February (24-28th), there are no less than three separate panels planned on waste, and some of those panels have received so many submissions that they are being divided into two parts. Scuttlebutt has it that the panels may be arranged consecutively, so there will be one full Waste Day for geographically-minded discard enthusiasts. I look forward to meeting other devotees.

There are various deadlines for submissions to each individual panel (Sept 14th to 24th), and the final deadline for the AAG is Sept 28th. Contributors and lay-people can register for the conference here.

Call for Papers: The Ethics of Rubbish: Environmental Politics, Citizenship and Urban Management
Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), New York, 2012
Co-Organizers: Tovi Fenster (Tel Aviv University) and Lynn Staeheli (Durham University)

Rubbish as domestic, industrial , environmental as personal, community or national is gaining a growing interest in public, political and international discourses. Following some existing research the aim of this session is to re-define some substantive issues such as what is rubbish? Whose rubbish do we talk about? Whose responsibility? These are significant questions in particular regarding issues such as equal distribution, collection and disposal of rubbish and the focus on the end line of consumption as rubbish. The starting point of this session is the identification of rubbish as physical or material but other insightful definitions and researches  are welcomed.

This session welcomes empirically- and conceptually-focused papers that employ qualitative, quantitative or mixed methodologies as well as theoretical contributions which engage issues of rubbish as consumption and production oriented , the ethics involved in its existence and how they are manifested in environmental politics, citizenship and urban management.

We encourage submissions that explore topics such as:
-The feminist perspectives of rubbish ethics (production and consumption)
– The ethics of equal distribution, collection and disposal
– Value judgment and rubbish
– Conflicts in various scales on rubbish
– Cultural, ethnic and nationalized constructions of rubbish
Send proposed titles and abstracts of up to 250 words to Tovi Fenster and Lynn Staeheli by Sept 25th, 2011.
Professor Tovi Fenster

Call for papers: Geographies of Waste
Session Organised by: Stewart Barr (University of Exeter), Steve Guilbert (Kingston University), Alan Metcalfe (University of Portsmouth), Mark Riley (University of Liverpool), Guy Robinson (University of South Australia), Terry Tudor (University of Northampton)
Sponsored by Cultural Geography and Energy and Environment Specialty Groups

Only a decade ago, one could legitimately make reference to the invisibility of waste; this is no longer the case. Culturally, politically and economically waste was the remainder that remained (all but) invisible. This can be seen when considering household waste, the most visible form of waste to most people. In the UK households would discard unwanted materials to a single bin, which councils collected weekly and treated as an amorphous mass, burying or sometimes burning. Few councils collected recyclables separately as most recycling was done by individuals and households who took glass, paper and the like to bring banks. Yet recently waste has become visible in several ways. Its material presence has increased as bins of different colours, shapes and sizes have proliferated in our yards and homes, streets and workplaces, a materiality that makes visible the newfound zeal in encouraging those disposing to sort and separate. Media reports have correspondingly grown as stories are told of how changes to bins and their collection endanger health, of excessive rules and of ‘snooping’ councils. Finally, waste has been made increasingly visible bureaucratically as municipal wastes in particular are counted, analysed and measured, their myriad routes and destinations monitored.

This shift towards visibility has also been witnessed within the academy. Until that point social scientists had focused on production and consumption, consequently failing to recognise the importance of waste as an issue (O’Brien 1999a, 1999b). The last decade though has witnessed a surge in concern with and discussion of waste matters. There have been examinations of the economics of different methods, technologies and uses of waste, such as energy production (Dijkgraaf and Vollebergh, 2004; Rabl et al, 2008; Miranda and Hale, 1997); the meaning and materiality of waste and how these are historically and spatially located (Cooper, 2008, 2009, 2010; Clarke, 2007; Gille, 2007; Laporte, 2000; Melosi, 2005; O’Brien, 2008; Strasser, 1999); the link between waste and embodiment whether positive (Hawkins, 2006) or toxic (Gregson et al, 2010); the rise of recycling, its links to household attitudes and behaviours and wider environmental concerns (Barr 2007; Barr et al, 2005; O’Shea et al, 2011; Robinson and Read, 2005); practices of disposal and processes of defining waste (Cwerner and Metcalfe, 2003; Gregson et al, 2007a, 2007b, 2009b); the centrality of value and values to waste (Hawkins, 2006; Hawkins and Meucke, 2003; O’Brien, 1999a, Scanlan, 2005); and the issue of locating waste facilities, governance, the connection to wider environmental concerns and to environmental justice (Davies, 2009; Martuzzi et al, 2010; Miranda et al, 2000)

This session seeks to engage with and provide a forum for this range of recent research in and theorisation of the geographies of waste. We are interested in making this a broad session with researchers from different fields talking to one another. We are therefore interested in receiving proposals from

  • a range of intellectual traditions utilising a range of methods and with a diversity of goals (e.g. economics, social psychology, social and cultural and policy studies as well as multi/inter-disciplinary),
  • a range of scales and spatial contexts, from studies considering an array of waste streams (e.g. household, industrial, agricultural, and hazardous),
  • those who have considered recycling, re-use and reduction as well as rubbish,
  • researchers who have considered waste as a resource, from the production of energy to its value in politics and market creation
  • and from academics exploring waste as an activity, a moral issue and as a material product.

We are interested in bringing researchers together to explore current themes and interests and to provide a forum for discussion across intellectual divides within Geography and beyond.

Please send a title and 250 word abstract to by 14th September.

Call for Papers: Political Ecology, Culture and Waste

Organizer:  Graham Pickren *University of Georgia

Theoretical and empirical engagements with waste continue to have traction among geographers and other cognate researchers, and for goodessio reason, as waste cuts across many disciplinary boundaries.  Gay Hawkins writes that waste “isn’t a fixed category of things; it is an effect of classification and relations…waste [is] a social text that discloses the logic or illogic of a culture” (2006, 2).   Extending that idea further, we know that the relationship between waste and culture cannot be separated from political-economic change, power relations, and the production of difference, that these things all ‘hang together’.The act of wasting, of producing, circulating, revaluing, and disposing of waste is fundamentally geographical, ranging from the micro level practices of household waste management to the macro-level institutional formations of the global waste trade.  In short, the study of waste allows us as researchers to engage with huge range of substantive questions.This session hopes to bring together scholars studying waste from a variety of perspectives into a productive dialogue.  Both theoretical and empirical papers are welcome.  If there are enough papers for multiple sessions, they may be organized along these lines.  Possible interventions include, but should not be limited to:

  • the relationship between waste and value
  • waste and ethical subjectivities – ‘don’t be a litter bug’
  • consumer politics, green consumerism
  • the governance of waste, including policy analyses
  • certification of ‘ethical’ recyclers
  • neoliberalization and waste
  • issues of commodification, privatization, etc
  • the movement of waste – commodity chains, trade issues
  •   ship breaking
  •  electronic waste dumping
  •  toxic trade
  • waste and labor
  • informal waste economies
  • waste and ecology
  • environmental justice

Submitting papers:Interested participants should send expression of interest, questions and/ or title and abstract of 250 words or less to Graham Pickren at by September 20,2011.

Hawkins, G., (2006)  The Ethics of Waste:  How We Relate to Rubbish