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CFP: Waste, Materialities & Meaning: Anthropological Engagements with Reuse, Repair and Care
American Anthropological Association
November 16-20, 2016
Washington, DC

Panel Organizers:
Cindy Isenhour, University of Maine
Anna Bohlin, University of Gothenburg
Staffan Appelgren, University of Gothenburg

 

The recent international focus on circular economies – which purport to reimagine waste as a resource rather than a market externality – has engaged scholars from multiple disciplines in the exploration of reuse as a tool for climate mitigation, reduced materials use and resource conservation. This is certainly a positive development given the impact of contemporary production-consumption systems. At the same time, anthropological engagements with so-called “waste” (garbage, rubbish, discards) raise questions about the novelty of the circular economy concept. Anthropology has already illustrated the deeply relational, situated and cultural entanglements implied in the determination of “resource,” “value,” and “waste”.  From ethnographies featuring innovative reuse among resource-strapped communities (Nguyen 2016) and garbage pickers on the margins of Brazilian society (Millar 2008) to sanitary workers in New York City (Nagle 2014), or among connoisseurs of thrift shops and vintage goods (Isenhour 2012, Appelgren and Bohlin 2015), anthropology has long demonstrated the not-so-novel concept of informal circular economies in action. Perhaps more importantly, anthropological engagements have helped to illustrate the materiality and generative capacity of “abandoned things” (Reno 2015) as they fundamentally shape social relations, our collective sense of memory and heritage, as well as human and non-human nature. What is perhaps new about today’s circular economy imaginaries is that they signal the growing commodification and formalization of waste and reuse practices, raising important questions about the potential gentrification of reuse, and potential exclusion, as well as the shifting relationality of reuse to capitalist markets at the “end of cheap nature” (Schindler and Demaria 2017, Moore 2015). This panel seeks to both critically and productively engage with long-standing and emergent efforts to prevent waste through repair, care and reuse. We seek contributions that engage theory and ethnographic detail to explore a wide variety of questions and themes with relevance to the meaning and materiality of reuse including, but not limited to, the following:

 

  • How waste and residual value are variously and situationally determined
  • How discarded goods or “abandoned things” circulate in space and across scales
  • How posthumanist perspectives can provide novel ways of conceptualizing human-object relations in contexts of reuse
  • The generative capacity of reuse to shape/reshape livelihoods, waste infrastructures and materials markets
  • Everyday practices of maintenance, repair and care – as processes of reuse
  • The potential of reuse markets and practices to bring transformative change (or variously, another individualist and niche market-based movement)

 

If interested, please send an abstract of max 250 words to Cindy Isenhour (cynthia.isenhour@maine.edu) by Friday, April 7th.  We’ll get back to you no later than Monday, April 10th so that we can submit the panel prior to the AAA deadline of Friday, April 14th.