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Discard Studies: Exploring the Abject, Discarded, and Disposable

Semester and Year FA 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG2021
Section 001
Instructor Rosalind Fredericks, Mohammed Rafi Arefin
Days M
Time 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


Students who have taken IDSEM-UG 1786 (Trash Matters: Exploring Development, Environment, and Culture through Garbage) are not permitted to take this course. Section 2 for Environmental Studies majors only. This course may be combined with a 2-credit, competitive internship arranged by Gal-latin. Internship information will be forthcoming.


Waste is a dynamic cultural phenomenon, a language of power, and a material object. Discard studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the politics of production, consumption, and disposability by beginning with objects such as household garbage, sewage, hazardous waste, and e-waste. In times of planned obsolesce, infrastructural disrepair, austerity, and urban divestment, scholars have turned to waste, in its many material and symbolic forms, to shed light onto topics as diverse as urban ecology, labor, justice and inequality, governance, informality, development, abjection, and protest. This course serves as an introduction to discard studies by delving into the foundational texts and contemporary scholarship in the field. In the first section of the course, we will explore different disciplinary and conceptual approaches to studying waste. We will then ground these frameworks with place-based readings and exercises in New York City. In order to identify and explore global connections and divergences in the politics of waste, we will move to international and transnational studies of waste and uneven geographies of disposability. The final section will involve projects aimed at training students to become discardians. Readings will be drawn from scholars including Martin Melosi, Mary Douglas, Sarah Moore, Brenda Chalfin, and Vinay Gidwani.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)