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Detritus JournalDetritus is an open access, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal which publishes papers on waste resources, residue management and engineering, also with a focus on social needs and developments
Discard StudiesDiscard Studies is an online hub for scholars, activists, environmentalists, students, artists, planners, and others who are asking questions about waste, not just as an ecological problem, but as a process, category, mentality, judgment, an infrastructural and economic challenge, and as a site for producing power as well as struggles against power structures. We produce and host: monthly research-based articles on discard studies; compile a monthly report on recent articles, jobs, and calls for participation relevant to discard studies called “The Dirt”; and maintain a repository of definitions, bibliographies, and syllabi as resources.
NYC Department of Sanitation Oral History ProjectIn trying to understand how a city keeps its streets clean, its citizens healthy, and its economy thriving, researchers look to the history of labor and infrastructure, among other sources. But when I started to ask questions about who cleaned New York in days gone by, and what that work was like, and who took those jobs or was refused those jobs, and how those workers were treated by their larger communities, I found a serious dearth of information.
Anyone curious about landfills and other waste disposal choices in the United States finds a similar gap. What happened to various communities when landfills were sited near them, what happened after the landfills were closed, and what kind of innovations are brought to their transformations?
At the same time, sanitation workers today are more often pilloried than celebrated. Despite the simple fact that their work is absolutely fundamental to the daily and long-term health of any city or town where they work, their jobs are wrapped in stigma and their importance is taken for granted.
These Oral History Projects are an attempt to change these conversations. Why not learn what makes up the daily concerns and large-scale problems of people who work in waste disposal and people who work to transform landscapes created by waste? How extraordinary to learn even a little insight about what it’s like to do their work, to shoulder their very particular responsibilities, and to understand the world through perspectives that are not well represented in the historical record or in common understanding of the world around us.
Digital Rubbish by Jennifer GabrysThis is a study of the material life of information and its devices; of electronic waste in its physical and electronic incarnations; a cultural and material mapping of the spaces where electronics in the form of both hardware and information accumulate, break down, or are stowed away. Electronic waste occurs not just in the form of discarded computers but also as a scatter of information devices, software, and systems that are rendered obsolete and fail. Where other studies have addressed "digital" technology through a focus on its immateriality or virtual qualities, Gabrys traces the material, spatial, cultural, and political infrastructures that enable the emergence and dissolution of these technologies. In the course of her book, she explores five interrelated "spaces" where electronics fall apart: from Silicon Valley to Nasdaq, from containers bound for China to museums and archives that preserve obsolete electronics as cultural artifacts, to the landfill as material repository. All together, these sites stack up into a sedimentary record that forms the "natural history" of this study.
Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics describes the materiality of electronics from a unique perspective, examining the multiple forms of waste that electronics create as evidence of the resources, labor, and imaginaries that are bundled into these machines. By drawing on the material analysis developed by Walter Benjamin, this natural history method allows for an inquiry into electronics that focuses neither on technological progression nor on great inventors but rather considers the ways in which electronic technologies fail and decay. Ranging across studies of media and technology, as well as environments, geography, and design, Jennifer Gabrys pulls together the far-reaching material and cultural processes that enable the making and breaking of these technologies.
Publication Date: 2011-03-02
Filth by William A. Cohen; Ryan Johnson (Contribution by)This book explores the question of what filth has to do with culture: what critical role the lost, the rejected, the abject, and the dirty play in social management and identity formation. It suggests the ongoing power of culturally mandated categories of exclusion and repression.
Focusing on filth in literary and cultural materials from London, Paris, and their colonial outposts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the essays in Filth, all but one previously unpublished, range over topics as diverse as the building of sewers in nineteenth-century European metropolises, the link between interior design and bourgeois sanitary phobias, fictional representations of laboring women and foreigners as polluting, and relations among disease, disorder, and sexual-racial disharmony.
Publication Date: 2004-12-15
Making Waste by Sophie GeeWhy was eighteenth-century English culture so fascinated with the things its society discarded? Why did Restoration and Augustan writers such as Milton, Dryden, Swift, and Pope describe, catalog, and memorialize the waste matter that their social and political worlds wanted to get rid of — from the theological dregs in Paradise Lost to the excrements in “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and the corpses of A Journal of the Plague Year? In Making Waste, the first book about refuse and its place in Enlightenment literature and culture, Sophie Gee examines the meaning of waste at the moment when the early modern world was turning modern.
Gee explains how English writers used contemporary theological and philosophical texts about unwanted and leftover matter to explore secular, literary relationships between waste and value. She finds that, in the eighteenth century, waste was as culturally valuable as it was practically worthless — and that waste paradoxically revealed the things that the culture cherished most.
The surprising central insight of Making Waste is that the creation of value always generates waste. Waste is therefore a sign — though a perverse one — that value and meaning have been made. Even when it appears to symbolize civic, economic, and political failure, waste is in fact restorative, a sign of cultural invigoration and imaginative abundance. Challenging the conventional association of Enlightenment culture with political and social improvement, and scientific and commercial progress, Making Waste has important insights for cultural and intellectual history as well as literary studies.
Publication Date: 2010-01-17
Purity and Danger by Mary DouglasIs cleanliness next to godliness? What does such a concept really mean? Why does it recur as a universal theme across all societies? And what are the implications for the unclean?
In Purity and Danger Mary Douglas identifies the concern for purity as a key theme at the heart of every society. In lively and lucid prose she explains its relevance for every reader by revealing its wide-ranging impact on our attitudes to society, values, cosmology and knowledge. This book has been hugely influential in many areas of debate – from religion to social theory. With a specially commissioned preface by the author which assesses the continuing significance of the work, this Routledge Classics edition will ensure that Purity and Danger continues to challenge, question and inspire for many years to come.
Publication Date: 2003-08-29
Spam by Finn BruntonWhat spam is, how it works, and how it has shaped online communities and the Internet itself.
The vast majority of all email sent every day is spam, a variety of idiosyncratically spelled requests to provide account information, invitations to spend money on dubious products, and pleas to send cash overseas. Most of it is caught by filters before ever reaching an in-box. Where does it come from? As Finn Brunton explains in Spam, it is produced and shaped by many different populations around the world: programmers, con artists, bots and their botmasters, pharmaceutical merchants, marketers, identity thieves, crooked bankers and their victims, cops, lawyers, network security professionals, vigilantes, and hackers. Every time we go online, we participate in the system of spam, with choices, refusals, and purchases the consequences of which we may not understand.
This is a book about what spam is, how it works, and what it means. Brunton provides a cultural history that stretches from pranks on early computer networks to the construction of a global criminal infrastructure. The history of spam, Brunton shows us, is a shadow history of the Internet itself, with spam emerging as the mirror image of the online communities it targets. Brunton traces spam through three epochs: the 1970s to 1995, and the early, noncommercial computer networks that became the Internet; 1995 to 2003, with the dot-com boom, the rise of spam's entrepreneurs, and the first efforts at regulating spam; and 2003 to the present, with the war of algorithms—spam versus anti-spam. Spam shows us how technologies, from email to search engines, are transformed by unintended consequences and adaptations, and how online communities develop and invent governance for themselves.
This essay will also be published by Stanford University Press in the forthcoming digital project ‘Feral Atlas: The More-Than-Human Anthropocene’ edited by Anna Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena, and Feifei Zhou. Please visit sup.org/digital for more information.