Article Alert! New texts in discard studies

Since discard studies doesn’t have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a monthly table of contents alert for articles, reports, and books in the field. There are the most recent publications as of the end of May, 2016:

Bender-Baird, K. (2015). Peeing under surveillance: bathrooms, gender policing, and hate violence. Gender, Place & Culture, 1-6.
The experiences of trans and gender non-conforming people in public restrooms confirms what feminist scholars have been saying for decades: public space is not a neutral space, rather it is where power is enacted. In this intervention, I extend Foucault’s analysis of docile bodies to gender, suggesting that sex-segregated bathrooms are technologies of disciplinary power, upholding the gender binary by forcing people to choose between men’s and women’s rooms. The resulting lack of safe access to public restrooms is an everyday reality for those who fall outside of gender binary norms. Faced with a built environment that denies their existence and facilitates gender policing, I argue that trans and gender non-conforming people sometimes engage in situational docility. Bodies are adjusted to comply with the cardinal rule of gender – to be readable at a glance – which is often due to safety concerns. Changing the structure of bathrooms to be gender inclusive and/or neutral may decrease gender policing in bathrooms and the need for this situational docility, allowing trans and gender non-conforming people to pee in peace.

Usbkey_internalsKennedy, J., & Wilken, R. (2016). “Disposable Technologies: The Halfwayness of USB Portable Hard Drives.” Journal of Mobile Media 10(1).
This article draws from a pilot study examining people’s use of portable hard drives and USB sticks in Melbourne, Australia – an important initial step in identifying the ways in which USB portable hard drives hold enduring personal, social, and economic significance. We explore this significance through reluctances to dispose of USB portable hard drives, partly for environmental reasons, but also because of concerns over the data stored on them. In direct tension to these concerns is an ephemeral sense of ownership, where USB portable hard drives are always disposable from the moment of acquisition. We also explore views on, and negotiations of, these paradoxical issues in regards to the disposability of USB portable hard drives.

Kim, H. (2015). “Maintaining relations, managing pollution: Mortuary exchanges in a Japanese rural town.”  Journal of Material Culture, 1359183515610363.
In this article, based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in a Japanese rural town, the author examines exchanges that occur upon death by focusing on the flow of material objects in relation to pollution and vitality. Specifically, he attempts to elucidate the ways in which pollution and vitality are manifested and exchanged through the transaction of material objects between the bereaved, the non-bereaved and the dead. Throughout the article, the author seeks a fuller understanding of why the mortuary exchange must be understood in terms of pollution and vitality and their relationship with material objects. He suggests that the mortuary exchange has the most important function of distributing pollution and vitality so that the living and the dead supplement their own vitality and diminish death pollution. By doing this, the defiled states of both the living and the dead are ultimately transformed into states of purity.

Nading, A. M. (2016). Local Biologies, Leaky Things, and the Chemical Infrastructure of Global Health. Medical anthropology, (just-accepted).
This article examines how two chemicals are woven into the infrastructure of global health, and into the social lives of health workers in urban Nicaragua. One chemical is temephos, an organophosphate used to control mosquitoes. The other is chlorine-based products, used to disinfect surfaces and water. While global health projects tend to treat these chemicals as stable objects, there are three ways in which they might be understood as leaky things, implicated in fluid social interactions. First, global health chemicals are tracked through rigid accounting, but due to numerical leakages, they become vehicles for fashioning new forms of concern. Second chemicals leak structurally. They can be dissolved and reproduced at a molecular level, though that dissolution is never absolute, and that reproduction is not everywhere the same. Third, chemicals leak in a sensoryfashion. Sensory interactions with chemicals produce an entanglement of knowledge about bodies and environments.

image_miniShotwell, Alexis. (December 2016). Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times. Minnesota Press. Coming in December.
Why contamination and compromise might be a starting point for doing something, instead of a reason to give up. In Against Purity, Alexis Shotwell proposes a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures. Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.

Vinsel, Lee  & Andrew Russell. (2016). “Hail the Maintainers,”Aeon. 
Innovation is a dominant ideology of our era, embraced in America by Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Washington DC political elite. As the pursuit of innovation has inspired technologists and capitalists, it has also provoked critics who suspect that the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens afterinnovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations.