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The Discard Studies Handybook will be the first collection of interdisciplinary keywords used in the study of waste and wasting.  Developed through an innovative two-step format, the Handybook will be published on the Discard Studies blog, which both includes and reaches beyond scholarly audiences, and then in paperback. The online version of the Handybook, composed of short 600-800 word contributions, seeks to map the contemporary scholarship on waste while also offering expert insights on central concepts, theories, methods and socio-political challenges. An invited selection of these entries will then be collaboratively expanded by participating authors in a more comprehensive 1,500-2,000-word format for the paperback/ebook version. This format allows open and fair access to the contents of the Handybook for the wider public via the Discard Studies blog, as well as more in-depth scholarly inquiry into key theoretical, methodological and normative challenges via the paperback publication. The project is modeled on New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society and similar texts, but with the additional goal of showcasing the depth and breadth of interdisciplinary work, including challenges and methods, in the study of waste broadly defined.

Instructions for authors:

The Discard Studies Handybook is intended for or a wide and engaged audience: please write in an accessible style, minimizing jargon, quotations and endnotes. Where possible, we encourage essays to engage with empirical material rather than with solely theoretical concerns. Titles should be one or two words, and illustrate a single concept, theory, method, or challenge facing the study of waste today. Case studies arising from authors own research are welcome, but they should be used in the service of illustrating and nuancing the keyword.

Essays are to be framed in relation to one of three sections of the Handybook:

CONCEPTS IN PLACE – This section of the Handybook aims to develop a critical consciousness around commonly used topics and terms in discard studies.  Contributions here focus on highlighting and discussing how various facets of discard studies are intertwined with broader social, economic, historic, political questions. While scholars use terms such as “landfill”, “commons”, “dirt”, “wastefulness” and “consumption”, what are the premises, underpinnings, popular mythologies, histories, and politics of such terms? How are such terms interested in and/or leveraged for certain aims?

THEORIES & METHODS – Contributions to this part of the Handybook present a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives that have been deployed to study waste in its many forms and meanings. ‘Methods’ essays illustrate approaches from anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, geography, political science, material analysis, environmental science, and many other disciplinary stances, presenting the multidisciplinarity of discard studies. Chapters in this part focus, for instance, on garbology, rubbish theory, actor-network theory, lifecycle analysis, environmental justice, political ecology, epidemiology, citizen science, landscape studies, social movement studies, urban and regional planning, participatory action research, praxis, materials flow analysis, organizational dynamics, and more.

CHALLENGES – This last part of the Handybook considers the interconnection between scholarly analysis and the many socio-political challenges of waste. Researching garbage confronts us with disciplinary limits, pervasive social questions sometimes thought to be beyond the purview of academia, and concomitant demands for scholarly reflexivity. Essays in this section draw on themes emerging within discard studies to connect this eclectic field with broader societal practices like public policy, advocacy, interdisciplinary work, ethics, and economics.

Please submit a maximum 200-word abstract indicating your topic of interest and its general outline. Send to michele.acuto@insis.ox.ac.uk and max.liboiron@nyu.edu. Please use .docx or .txt files, or paste in the body of the email.

Note all images must be copyright of author, creative commons, copy left, or part of the commons.

Abstracts: August 31, 2013 (200 words).
First drafts: October 5, 2013 (600-800 words).
Full chapters: due date TBA (1,500 to 2,000 words).

The Editors:

Max Liboiron is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University.

Michele Acuto is Stephen Barter Fellow in the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford.

Robin Nagle is a professor at New York University, anthropologist-in-residence with the Department of Sanitation in New York City, and author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).

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