Article Alert! New texts in discard studies (May & June 2017)

Since critical 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:

Baeten, J., Langston, N., & Lafreniere, D. (2016). A geospatial approach to uncovering the hidden waste footprint of Lake Superior’s Mesabi Iron Range. The Extractive Industries and Society, 3(4), 1031-1045.
For decades, the Lake Superior Iron District produced a significant majority of the world’s iron used in steel production. Chief among these was the Mesabi Range of northern Minnesota, a vast deposit of hematite and magnetic taconite ores stretching for over 100 miles in length. Iron ore mining in the Mesabi Range involved three major phases: direct shipping ores (1847–1970s), washable ores (1907–1980s), and taconite (1947–current). Each phase of iron mining used different technologies to extract and process ore. Producing all of this iron yielded a vast landscape of mine waste. This paper uses a historical GIS to illuminate the spatial extent of mining across the Lake Superior Iron District, to locate where low-grade ore processing took place, and to identify how and where waste was produced. Our analysis shows that the technological shift to low-grade ore mining placed new demands on the environment, primarily around processing plants. Direct shipping ore mines produced less mine waste than low-grade ore mines, and this waste was confined to the immediate vicinity of mines themselves. Low-grade ore processing, in contrast, created more dispersed waste landscapes as tailings mobilized from the mines themselves into waterbodies and human communities.

Baxter, W., Aurisicchio, M., & Childs, P. (2017). Contaminated Interaction: Another Barrier to Circular Material Flows. Journal of Industrial EcologyDOI: 10.1111/jiec.12612
Contamination poses a significant problem to the circular economy (CE), which derives much of its value from maintaining pure material flows. The aim of this article is to frame contaminated interaction among other forms of contamination and investigate its effects on the CE. The research is based on a review of the contamination literature and case studies. We differentiate between three types of contamination influencing circular material flows: technical, which deals with fitness for use; systemic, which deals with efficiency in processing; and interaction, which deals with user-object interaction and decision making. Our focus is on developing a foundational understanding of contaminated interaction and how it influences circular processes. Through multiple examples, contaminated interaction is shown to create three barriers to the CE: downcycling, disposal, and hindered circulation. Among other proposals to address contaminated interaction, the research calls for the development of experientially transferrable design—products that can move between users and uses without negative consequences.

Chang, C. J. (2017). Global animal capital and animal garbage: Documentary redemption and hope. Journal of Chinese Cinemas, 11(1), 96-114.
This article argues that, in dealing with contemporary prevalent, slow violence against nonhuman animals, film medium is more effective when perceived as an agent of redemption. The documentary genre in particular is capable of helping nonhuman animals break away from being trapped in the viscous loop of the capitalist production chain through its visual, investigative, and other cinematic apparatus. In developing the idea of documentary redemption and hope, I first trace, by way of Nicole Shukin’s work, the entanglements of animals in early film industry where animals are exploited materially by the film industry and conceptually exploited for the advancement of a capitalist manufacturing process. Here, I see filmic redemption as self-redemptive: to redress/make amends the malicious human-animal relationship, especially with the advent of digital film. The second idea of redemption is examined through animal activist documentaries: What narrative and aesthetic strategies do filmmakers use to prompt post-cinematic change or action? What affects are appropriate for an animal advocacy film? In recognizing the potential negatives of documentaries to traumatize, terrorize, and numb the audience by cataloging the cruel reality of animal violence and suffering, I contend that the documentary genre materializes its activist potential when it is conceived as a positive and affective technological apparatus of hope and aspiration. The following films (mostly documentaries) from multiple localities will be discussed: The Plastic Cow (India), Three Flower/Tri-Color (China), four Asian Black Bear rescue documentaries from Australia, China, and Vietnam, and finally, The Lost Sea (Taiwan).

Hillier, J. (2017). No place to go? Management of non-human animal overflows in Australia. European Management Journal.
I discuss overflows of several introduced vertebrate species in Australia and critically explore their construction as national pests – overflows – appropriate for management by lethal control. I outline the thanato-politics and thanato-economics of managing selected non-human animals by toxic baiting and/or viral infection in ecologies of toxicity and the trophic cascades which may ensue. Drawing on Foucault and Deleuze, I explore creative potentialities for conservation managers of thinking in terms of milieu and environnementalité; exploration of the conditions of possibility for non-human animals to live in their milieus, considering relationalities with elements such as habitat fragmentation, fire regimes, pesticide use and so on. This could form a biopolitics which relocates biopower to within the subject rather than a thanato-politics of overflow, surplus and death.

Lima, M. R. P. (2017). Plasticidades Recriadas: Conhecimento Sensível, Valor E Indeterminação Na Atividade Dos Catadores De Recicláveis//Recreating Plasticities: Sensory Knowledge, Value and Indeterminacy in the Activity of Recyclable Waste Collectors. Sociologia & Antropologia, 7(1), 209.
O artigo discute a economia da reciclagem na região metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro, enfocando o trabalho dos catadores, com o objetivo de refletir etnograficamente sobre um circuito comercial ao longo do qual os “resíduos” são transformados em “material reciclável”. Do circuito, a análise aborda o segmento compreendido entre o aterro de resíduos e a associação de catadores local, e descreve as formas de organização do trabalho nesses espaços. Com foco nos objetos e nas práticas nas quais eles são agenciados, o artigo evidencia a catação como processos de recriação de valor das materialidades descartadas. A atividade de “bater o material” revela a existência de um conhecimento sensível, um sistema classificatório acurado e um conjunto de técnicas dos catadores a respeito das matérias plásticas. Desdobrando a análise, o artigo apresenta casos de objetos cujas trajetórias desviadas iluminam a indeterminação dos resíduos em termos de valor.
The article discusses the economy of recycling in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan region, specifically the work of waste collectors, and develops an ethnographic reflection on a commercial circuit in which ‘waste’ is transformed into ‘recyclable material.’ It focuses specifically on the section of the circuit located between the waste dump and the local collectors associations, describing the types of labour organization found in these spaces. Focusing on the objects and the practices in which they are mobilized, the article shows how waste collection involves processes of recreating value from discarded physical objects. The activity of ‘beating the material’ reveals the existence of a sensory knowledge, a detailed classificatory system and a set of techniques utilized by the collectors in relation to plastic materials. Developing the analysis further, the article presents cases of objects whose diverted trajectories shed light on the indeterminacy of waste in terms of value.

Machado‐Borges, T. (2017). “Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Middle‐Class Households, Waste, Consumption, and Environmental Awareness in Southeastern Brazil.The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology.
his article examines how middle-class households in the city of Belo Horizonte, southeastern Brazil, deal with the waste that pervades their lives. Processes of classification and disposal are examined and related to consumption practices, the division of labor, and environmental issues. This research also examines how waste is implicated in the performance of middle class-ness, in notions of morality, and in norms and codes classifying and distinguishing the valuable from the worthless. The present study suggests that members of the ethnographic sample seem worried about issues regarding social hierarchies and class belonging, to a much greater degree than they are concerned with the environmental aspects of consumption and waste management. Out of sight, out of mind? In an explicit context of social inequality, behavior toward waste passes first through the lens of class. [Brazil, class, ecology, environment, labor, social anthropology, urban, waste]

Ortar, N., & Anstett, É. (2017). Jeux de pouvoir dans nos poubelles. PETRA.
Mettre ou ne pas mettre à la poubelle, est devenu un geste moralement voire politiquement connoté. En effet, le déchet est toujours appréhendé à partir de systèmes de valeur qui assignent une valence positive ou négative au fait de se séparer ou au contraire de conserver des matériaux devenus inutiles. Bien plus, les notions de pureté et d’impureté comme celle de pollution, dont l’anthropologue Mary Douglas a contribué à montrer l’importance, sont fréquemment associées aux matières détritiques et contribuent à poser l’analyse des pratiques de recyclage et de récupération dans le champ de la morale. Jeux de pouvoir dans nos poubelles, qui rassemble des contribution d’anthropologues et de sociologues, mais aussi d’historiens, de géographes et de philosophes travaillant sur des terrains européens et latino-américains, se propose de questionner plus précisément les économies morales auxquelles sont adossées les pratiques de récupération ou de mise en circulation des déchets, dans l’objectif de mettre au jour leurs paradoxes et leurs contradictions internes, tout autant que leurs logiques politiques sous-jacentes.