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Trash Matters: Exploring Development, Environment, and Culture through Garbage

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1786
Section 001
Instructor Rosalind Fredericks
Days T
Time 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


Section 2 for Environmental Studies majors only.


This course considers the production, management, and disposal of garbage as a dynamic cultural phenomenon that can lend insight into a broad array of questions at the nexus of environment and development. Most broadly, unpacking waste’s deep political and cultural dimensions provides for critical reflection on urbanism, social relations of difference, global economic processes, and people’s relationships to nature. After exploring theories of waste and value, the first half of the course examines the rise of the discard society in the global North through looking at waste politics in the United States, with a special focus on New York City. The second half of the course expands the purview of our analysis to consider global waste geographies, focusing on waste trade and circulation in the context of uneven development. Specific topics may include: waste work in New York City; dumping and environmental justice in the US; the limits of recycling; toxic exports and the global e-waste trade; carbon as global waste; biocitizenship and the tragedy of Bhopal; waste-based social movements and rebellion through disorder; the art of rubbish. Authors may include: Mary Douglas, Gay Hawkins, Robin Nagle, Heather Rogers, and Sarah Moore.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)