Category Archives: Purity/defilement

Chennai Waste, Part 2: The rural urban divide and caste politics

While most of my middle class informants have shied away from discussing caste, and instead point to class as being more of a social indicator in Chennai nowadays, Elango is insistent that “development and economics are masking the social, caste system.” Urbanization is just a process; caste is a system, a way of life so deeply entrenched that it has become taken for granted. This caste system entrenchment has in turn translated into not only a lack of empathy, but a sense that certain people belong or deserve certain tasks, such as clearing garbage, or waste picking. Elango’s words reminded me of a Ramky Group (a private company in charge of waste disposal for a few Chennai zones) street sweeper in Mylapore with whom I spoke in April, who echoed this idea that people don’t stop to think that someone is coming behind them to clean up the garbage they throw on the streets.

Twenty-first century nuisance law and the continued entanglement of race, gender, property, and violence

“It has generally been held that an in most instances rightly held that the degree of dilution necessary is merely that which will prevent a nuisance, having reference primarily to unsightly floating matter and bad odors. For most rivers and many of the smaller streams of the country, this requirement as to the cleanness of […]
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A review of The Perfect Food and the Filth Disease: Milk, Typhoid Fever, and the Science of State Medicine in Victorian Britain, 1850-1900

Discard Studies has created a new resource page for dissertations and thesis related to the field. The partial review below is taken from Dissertation Reviews, a relatively new online publishing venue for freshly minted research (we highly recommend new graduates submit their work). If you would like your or your advisee’s dissertation on the Discard […]
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The Plastisphere and other 21st century waste ecosystems

By Max Liboiron. You’ve probably heard of “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “The Gyre,” or other names given to the phenomenon of ocean plastics. You may have asked yourself why we just don’t clean it all up with a giant sea-vacuum. You may have even seen inventions meant to do just that. But perhaps […]
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CFP: Body Burdens, Biomonitoring, and Biocitizenship

Since at least the publication of Silent Spring, scientists, policy-makers, and the general public has focused on pollution in the environment as the object of regulation and control, a source of fear and anxiety, and the subject of scientific testing. As technologies, analytical detection limits, and eco-populist, anti-toxic movements have developed over the decades, scrutiny […]
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Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks

Contagion, or the way disease, disgust and dirt circulates, how the effects of dirt transfer to bodies, and how harm is conceptualized, is central to discard studies. From miasma, through the germ theory of disease, and now for chronic, pervasive models of pollution brought about by endocrine distributors and radiation, theories of contagion have been […]
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Article Alert! Drinking Wastewater: Public Trust in Potable Reuse

A new article in Science, Technology and Human Values brings up an issue that has been at the forefront of waste studies for several centuries: the relationships between technology, trust, taboo, sewage, and potable water. Kerri Jean Ormerod and Christopher A. Scott‘s “Drinking Wastewater: Public Trust in Potable Reuse,” is a short, focused piece on […]
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New York City settles with Occupy Wall Street for unconstitutional trashing

By Max Liboiron. Nearly a year ago, I posted about a lawsuit brought against the City of New York by the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street for trashing thousands of books during the eviction of Zuccoti Park. The story resonated with a lot of people because the destruction of books is seen as a special type of waste […]
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New listserv for toxics in the humanities and social sciences

For all of us who work on pollution, toxics, and the afterlife of chemicals more broadly, there is a new, open listserv called Toxics in the Humanities and Social Sciences. It’s description: “This group is for academics and practitioners who study bodily and/or environmental toxins, pollution, and the lives of synthetic chemicals using methodologies in […]
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CFP: Purity

“Purity is the power to contemplate defilement.” – Simone Weil “Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.” – William Faulkner “Throughout human history, the apostles of purity, those who have claimed to possess a total explanation, have wrought havoc among mere mixed-up human beings.” – Salman Rushdie PURITY is a division, a […]
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