New Texts in Discard Studies (September 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:

Demaria, F. (2017). Social metabolism, cost-shifting and conflicts: The struggles and services of informal waste recyclers (Doctoral dissertation, Autonomous University of Barcelona).
This thesis contributes to our understanding of social metabolism in general, and waste in social metabolism in particular. First, I examine the relationship between social metabolism and conflict, looking from a situated political ecology perspective, at how differences in the structure and nature of particular social metabolisms create different conflict dynamics. Second, I shed light at an often forgotten but very important part of social metabolism which is the informal recycling of waste. I evaluate the contribution of informal recycling, and I investigate how power influences the social relations of production for recycling, and how these shift costs to informal recyclers. Then I make a case for the recognition of the important contribution of informal recyclers in making social metabolism more circular, and I call for due compensation of the services they provide, instead of a dispossession from their means of production, and a shifting of social costs of enterprises and consumers to them. !y case studies present a range of experiences, mostly in India, to inform theory on how environments are shaped, politicized and contested.


Ibáñez Martín, R., & de Laet, M. (2017). Geographies of fat waste. Or, how kitchen fats make citizensThe Sociological Review, 0038026117726731.
While waste marks the beginning of relocation, re-materialization, and resourcing processes, it is also a set of connections, producing specific figurations of citizenship that follow from, as they inform, waste management strategies. This article regards household practices to do with the disposal of used fats as a site where citizenship forms. The authors see the figure of ‘good citizen’ appear along the trajectory of kitchen fats. They contrast this figure with the ‘re-user,’ who acts by a different set of rules, so as to explore logics and normativities embedded in the mundane processes of discarding fats. Fat waste not only turns out to be different things for different stakeholders; it is in different fat disposal practices that different (kinds of) stakeholders emerge. As the authors situate citizenship in mundane practices, kitchen fats suggest the situational, material-relational character of waste and waste-eliminating schemes – and of citizenship itself.

Nieuwenhuis, M. (2017). Atmospheric governance: Gassing as law for the protection and killing of lifeEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space, 0263775817729378.
Breathing is the activity which all forms of animated life share in common. The breath has been symbolised across cultures as the meaning of life itself. If breathing is imagined as life, gassing is the very opposite. Gassing is the intended (or unintended) means to prevent or obstruct breathing. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Nazi concentration camps are remembered as expressions of technological as much as metaphysical terror. The 2013 and 2017 Syrian chemical attacks show how gassing remains a ‘red line.’ This paper deals with the historical significance and complexity of air and breathing in law. Human dependency on the air has in early treaties been protected at times of war between ‘civilised’ nations but was exploited as an instrument against the breather during colonialism. Today, non-lethal-weapons, a more-than-technical term, are used extensively to discipline the biological body into political order. Engaging with the work of Foucault, Sloterdijk and others, I seek to make sense of the legal status of this contradictory political technology, which does not directly attack the body but rather conditions the atmospheric requirements for its animation. I argue for a move towards understanding law atmospherically as an extension of the body.

Nieuwenhuis M (2016Breathing materiality: Aerial violence at a time of atmospheric politics. Critical Studies on Terrorism 9(3): 499521.
The gassing events in Ferguson, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Syria, among countless other places, have made it clear that policing can no longer be simply understood as a bodily disciplining of individuals, but that the target has shifted to the medium of the air. The air has for a long time been the neglected element of politics. Modern politics historically arises as a practice that is rooted in the soil on which borders are drawn and in which national identities are shaped. This article looks at the ways in which politics is swiftly becoming something that is inhaled, rather than something that occurs on the ground. I argue that we are witness to an arrival of a politics of the air one breathes. This move requires a thinking through the air or what I call an “air-thinking”. The article is set in the context of a growing occurrence of attacks on the breath in the aftermath of the strangulation of Eric Garner earlier last year. His now famous last words “I can’t breathe”, which he repeated 11 times, have unleashed a counter politics that reacts to the state’s tightening grip on what Sloterdijk calls the “negative air-conditioning” of breathing bodies.

Zimmer, A. (2016). Brouillards Toxiques. Zones
Du 1er au 5 décembre 1930, un brouillard épais se répand dans la vallée de la Meuse, non loin de Liège. Hommes et bêtes sont profondément affectés lors de sa survenue, et ils sont nombreux à y laisser leur vie. Après sa dissipation, des experts tranchent : « le seul brouillard » est responsable. Pourtant, sur place, nombreux sont ceux à incriminer les émanations des usines de la région, l’une des plus industrialisées d’Europe. Un an plus tard, des experts du parquet rendent d’autres conclusions : la consommation massive du charbon et les composés soufrés des émanations industrielles sont mis en cause. L’exceptionnalité de l’événement est cependant attribuée à la prédisposition des corps et aux conditions météorologiques particulières de cette première semaine de décembre 1930. Mais comment du « charbon » en vient-il à participer à la production de brouillards et à rejoindre ainsi, jusqu’à tuer, les poumons de ceux qui se sont retrouvés contraints de le respirer ? Ces liens « charbon- brouillards toxiques- poumons » n’ont rien d’évident. C’est à tenter de reconstituer les conditions historiques de leurs constructions que s’attache cet ouvrage. En considérant cette catastrophe dans le temps long nécessaire à sa production (comme un processus et non comme une interruption) ; en suivant la piste des matières de sa constitution (leur (a)cheminement et les assemblages techniques, sociaux, politiques et discursifs) nécessaires à leur transformation ; en étudiant le rôle et les effets des pratiques savantes, Brouillards toxiques permet de comprendre la transformation conjointe, par l’industrialisation, des corps et des environnements et la production de nouveaux phénomènes météorologiques.
From the 1st to the 5th December 1930, a thick fog spread in the Meuse valley, not far from Liège. People and animals were profoundly affected, many losing their lives. In its wake, experts asserted ‘the fog alone’ was responsible. Nevertheless at the time, they were many to incriminate the emanations of the factories in the valley, one of the most industrialized regions of Europe. One year later, experts of the public prosecutor’s department came to other conclusions: industrial emanations resulting from the massive consumption of coal and sulphuric compound were implicated. The exceptionality of the event was however bestowed on the predisposition of bodies and to the particular weather conditions of the first week of December, 1930.
But how does ‘coal’ come to participate in the production of fogs and to befoul, fatally, the lungs of those forced to inhale it? The ‘coal – toxic fog – lungs’ links is not obvious. This study aims to reconstitute the historic conditions of their construction. By considering this disaster over the period necessary for its production – as a process and not as an hiatus –; by following the trail of the materials of its constitution – their progress and the technical, social, political and discursive assemblies – necessary for their transformation; by studying the role and the effects of the scientific practices, this work allows an understanding of the joint transformation, by the industrialization, of bodies and environments and the production of new meteorological phenomena. 

Wylie, S., Shapiro, N., & Liboiron, M. (2017). Making and Doing Politics Through Grassroots Scientific Research on the Energy and Petrochemical Industries. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society3, 393-425.
The high stakes of emergent environmental crises, from climate change to widespread toxic exposures, have motivated STS practitioners to innovate methodologically, including leveraging STS scholarship to actively remake environmental scientific practice and technologies. This thematic collection brings together current research that transforms how communities and academics identify, study, and collectively respond to contaminants engendered by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries, including air contamination from hydraulic fracking, marine pollution from petroleum-derived plastics, and hydrocarbon derivatives such as formaldehyde that intoxicate our homes. These interventions make inroads into the “undone science” and “regimes of imperceptibility” of environmental health crises. Authors, most of whom are practitioners, investigate grassroots methods for collaboratively designing and developing low-cost monitoring tools, crowdsourcing data analysis, and imagining ways of redressing toxicity outside of the idioms of science.  Collectively, these articles work towards remaking how knowledge is made about and across industrial systems by networking community grounded approaches for accounting for environmental health issues created by the fossil fuels and allied petrochemical industries.