Article Alert! New articles in discard studies from October

Since discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article alert, please contact Max Liboiron:

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-8-08-03-amAltman, R. (2016). The Toxic-Waste Drum Is Everywhere. The Atlantic.
Excerpt: Of all the industries that have relied on the 55-gallon drum, it was the U.S. chemical industry, which came of age during WWII, that introduced the drum into the popular imagination. By mid-century, chemical factories had matured into massive operations spanning acres. They ran continuously, churning out synthetic plastics and other materials unprecedented in their novelty and utility, but also in the quantity of their byproducts. Unregulated production systems were allowed to generate unusable, often dangerous wastes. Along with the landfill and the retention pond, the 55-gallon drum was the waste-management technology of the 20th century.

Chang, C. J. (2016). Wasted Humans and Garbage Animals: Deadly Transcorporeality and Documentary Activism. In Ecodocumentaries (pp. 95-114). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
The juxtaposition of these two terms—garbage and animal—has a long material history that can be traced back to medieval gastronomic practices and tastes in the West. The material and symbolic entanglements of garbage and animal justify a further cross-examination between waste studies and critical animal studies and a two-edged cross-intervention into two devastating problems we are facing in the age of the Capitalocene: garbage and anthropocentric speciesism. Such a fusion of two terms articulates a vocabulary and a new conceptual frame for critical animal studies. “Garbage animal studies” provides an ecocritical theoretical frame for envisioning a type of practice under the nascent environmental humanities or, more appropriately, “naturecultural studies.” In this chapter, I use “garbage animal” as a nodal point to intersect waste studies, animal studies, and documentary film studies. I attempt to elucidate a theory of garbage animal and theorise a genre of garbage animal documentary as a form of redemption. I particularly focus on Kunal Vohra’s documentary The Plastic Cow, which discusses the way India’s modernisation has affected their sacred cow. Terms such as “the plastic cow” in India or “garbage goat” in China serve as a synecdoche designating urban roaming animals eating plastic bags and waste found on the streets. The documentaries address the “garbage animal” issue in globalised modernity, which serve as visual evidence of slow violence against non-human animal bodies and the body of the earth.

Endocrine Disruptors Action Group. (2016). Toxic By Design: Eliminating harmful flame retardant chemicals from our bodies, homes, & communities. EDAction.
Toxic By Design investigates how failures in Canada’s regulatory approach to industrial chemicals—including a new regulation on a class of toxic flame retardants called PBDEs that will come into effect on December 23, 2016 – have far-reaching effects on the health of Canadians. Current regulations allow harmful flame retardant chemicals to circulate in the everyday consumer products and building materials in our homes, workplaces, and public spaces. Common products like furniture and electronics have been allowed to become sources of long-lasting exposure to toxic chemicals. As a result, 92% of all Canadian women tested had toxic flame retardant chemicals in their breast milk, and all Canadians tested, including children, had some form of flame retardant chemical in their bodies. While fire safety is a serious concern, scientific research has shown that these chemicals do not significantly improve fire protection. Flame retardant chemicals do present serious risks, however, particularly for children and during fetal development. Among other concerns, the health effects of exposure to these chemicals include enlarged livers, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cognitive debilities, reduced fertility in both men and women, and certain cancers. Toxic By Design calls on the Canadian government to address failures in governance that are impacting the health of Canadians, both those living today and future generations.

Gregson, N., and Chang, M. (2o16). Illicit economies: customary illegality, moral economies and circulation. Institute of British Geographers. DOI 10.1111/tran.1215
This paper is concerned with how to think the illicit and illegal as part of economies. Economic geography has only recently begun to address this challenge but in limited ways. The paper shows the difficulties with those approaches, chief among which is a reassertion of the legal/illegal binary of products and actors that is contested by the more open term illicit economies. We draw on work in cultural economy to move economic geography beyond this impasse by seeing economy as practice. The paper develops a conceptual account of illicit economies connecting moral economy and the opacities produced by logistically complex global trade to highlight the importance of customary illegality in doing business. Customary illegality is the tolerance or practice of illicit activities by largely legal economic actors rather than just a focus on illegal goods or criminal actors. Illicitness is thus shown to be neither a property of goods nor of particular economic actors, but rather a transient quality often linked to circulation. The argument is illustrated empirically through three examples drawn from the food sector. The conclusion makes suggestions for future research that are empirical, methodological and conceptual.

Johansson, N., & Metzger, J. (2016). Experimentalizing the organization of objects: Re-enacting mines and landfills. Organization, 1350508415624271.
In this article, we draw upon ‘After-ANT’ scholarship to generate openings for a shift from purely deconstructive studies of object organization to a more straightforward generation of concrete and specific alternative trajectories towards the future by way of ontological experimentation. Through careful empirical investigation of a mine and a landfill, and how these are enacted in practice in different topological registers, we show how mines and landfills are intertwined; enacted sometimes as similar and in other cases as different types of objects, thus shaping the paths of becoming for those bundles of relations that become enacted as either a ‘mine object’ or a ‘landfill object’. Mapping these practices generates openings for interventions suggesting how things could be made different in some specificity; in this case, for example, the appreciation of what constitutes ‘natural resources’. The overarching purpose of this article is to intervene in current debates regarding the potential merits of drawing upon Object-Oriented Philosophy as an inspiration in critical organizational studies. While we are highly sympathetic to calls for more experimental object studies, we are hesitant towards Object-Oriented Philosophy as a source of inspiration due to its specific metaphysical underpinnings. To clarify what we find to be at stake here, we conclude the article by situating After-ANT in a wider landscape of thought, discussing the contrast between broadly pragmatist research approaches, such as After-ANT, and Object-Oriented Philosophy. Finally, we try to spell out how we believe this contrast reverberates upon how we understand the purpose and potential of critical social science.

img_6393Kimura, A. H. (2016). Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. Duke University Press.
Following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 2011 many concerned citizens—particularly mothers—were unconvinced by the Japanese government’s assurances that the country’s food supply was safe. They took matters into their own hands, collecting their own scientific data that revealed radiation-contaminated food. In Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen ScientistsAya Hirata Kimura shows how, instead of being praised for their concern about their communities’ health and safety, they faced stiff social sanctions, which dismissed their results by attributing them to the work of irrational and rumor-spreading women who lacked scientific knowledge. These citizen scientists were unsuccessful at gaining political traction, as they were constrained by neoliberal and traditional gender ideologies that dictated how private citizens—especially women—should act. By highlighting the challenges these citizen scientists faced, Kimura provides insights into the complicated relationship between science, foodways, gender, and politics in post-Fukushima Japan and beyond.

Phillips, C. (2017). Ghostly encounters: Dealing with ghost gear in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Geoforum, 78, 33-42.
Ghost gear – abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear – has been recognised as a global environmental challenge since the mid-1980s, and yet little social science attention has fallen on the phenomenon. This paper explores how the burden of global fisheries, materialised through its gear, is experienced and managed. How is ghost gear encountered? How is it understood? What influence does it have, and what responses does it provoke? To consider these questions, the paper begins with detailing of an encounter with ghost gear and Aboriginal rangers on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia. Understanding encounters as tangles of interlaced threads, rather than isolated intimacies, the paper also follows ghost gear beyond the experience of beach clean-up. How ghost gear journeys to this beach, and the mobilities and meetings that occur during its travels is explored, as well as the policy responses to ghost gear that figure it primarily as marine debris to be managed through territorial control as isolated ‘waste’. These more-than-human stories offer insights into the distributed agencies, complex relations, and differential responsibilities involved in the phenomenon of ghost gear, and efforts to deal with it as part of land-sea assemblies.