Josh Reno’s new article “Towards a New Theory of Waste: From ‘Matter out of Place’ to Signs of Life” is in November’s Theory, Culture and Society. In the article Reno proposes to re-orients the whole of “waste studies” by changing its object of interest, it’s operative metaphor, and the type of entities that create waste: “In this paper, I ask what it might mean for conceptions of waste, and critical theory more broadly, if we were to start from a different approach, bio-semiotics, modelled on an alternative substance, animal faeces” (2).
People tend to think that we are familiar with waste because we deal with it every day. Yet, this is not the case. Discard studies is central to thinking through and countering the initiative aspects of waste. As more popular, policy, activist, engineering and research attention is drawn to waste it becomes crucial for the humanities and social sciences to contextualize the problems, materialities and systems of waste that are not readily apparent to the invested but casual observer. Our task is to trouble the assumptions, premises and popular mythologies of waste so that work can go in a productive direction.