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15 Sep
Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts / Hybrid
Sep 15, 2022 -Sep 17, 2022 | 5:00 PM-5:30 PM


The Discard Studies Conference: Exploring Disposal’s Past, Present, and Future

The Discard Studies Conference: Exploring Disposal’s Past, Present, and Future
Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 17, 2022
Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts and Virtual

Over the past decade, an explosion of research, art, and activism has focused on waste and the forces that render certain objects, practices, and populations disposable. This work comes together in the interdisciplinary field of Discard Studies, which is driven by the questions of how, why, and to whom do waste, discards, and disposal matter? The Discard Studies Conference will bring together new and established scholars in the humanities and social sciences working on discards and related themes to evaluate the state of this emergent field and identify new directions for future research. Organized by professors Rosalind Fredericks, Mohammed Rafi Arefin, and Robin Nagle of the Discard Studies Collaborative and hosted by NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, the conference will include five panels showcasing fresh interdisciplinary research, an opening keynote and art exhibition in the Gallatin Galleries by artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and three additional keynote lectures by Max Liboiron, Brenda Chalfin, and Samantha MacBride. Co-sponsors for the event include the NYU Office of Sustainability, NYU Center for Humanities, Global Design NYU, The Urban Democracy Lab, and the departments of Liberal Studies and Environmental Studies.

Please view the conference webpage for additional information

The conference is free and features both an in-person and virtual attendance option.  All in person attendees must RSVP by Friday, September 9th.  All in person attendees must be cleared by the NYU VEOCI team which requires uploading your vaccination and booster informatiion.  


Thursday, September 15

5:00 – 6:00 pm  Reception for the Mierle Laderman Ukeles Exhibition 

6:00 – 7: 30 pm  Keynote Lecture by artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles

 Artist- in-Residence, New York City Department of Sanitation

Discussant: Eugenia Kisin (NYU)


Friday, September 16 

9:00 – 9:15 am  Welcome to the Discard Studies Conference 

Conference Organizers: Rosalind Fredericks, Mohammed Rafi Arefin, Robin Nagle

9:15 – 11:00 am  Keynote Lecture by Max Liboiron

Associate Professor of Geography, Memorial University

DiscussantsJosh Lepawsky (Memorial University and Alex Zahara (Memorial University)

11:15 – 12:45 pm  Panel 1:  Bodies: Labor, Abjection, and Intimacy

Moderator:  Karen Holmberg (NYU)

Discussant:  Catherine Fennell (Columbia University)


  • Amy Zhang (NYU)
    From dirty work to green labor: the political economy of recycling

  • Elana Resnick (University of California, Santa Barbara)
    Discard Studies, Scale, and the Racialized Anthropocene

  • Joshua Reno (State University of New York at Binghamton)
    Cacas Ergo Sum: Disability, Toileting and the Neglect of Abject Care Work in Discard Studies (and Beyond)

  • Katherine Sammler (California State University Maritime)
    An intimate space: Gravity, waste and the spatial orientation of bodies

  • Syantani Chatterjee (Columbia University)
    The poetics and politics of sticking 

1:45 – 3:15 pm  Panel 2: Infrastructures: Materiality, Value, and Circulation

Moderator:  Louise Harpman (NYU)

Discussant: Antina von Schnitzler (New School)


  • Marisa Solomon (Barnard College)
    Ecologies Elsewhere, or Becoming Fill

  • Nate Millington (University of Manchester)
    Whose Value Lies in the Urban Mine? Reconfiguring permissions, work and the benefits of waste in South Africa

  • Hanna Baumann (University College London)
    Waste Crisis and Value Generation: The slow violence of toxicity on Lebanon’s coast

  • Waqas Butt (University of Toronto)
    Between Waste and Water: Care and Urban Ecologies in Pakistan

  • Nicholas C. Kawa (The Ohio State University)
    Privy2: Creating Space for Reckoning with Ecologies of Human Waste

3:30 – 5:00 pm  Panel 3:  The Urban Landscape: Demolition, Abandonment, and Belonging

Moderator:  Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Gallatin, NYU) 

Discussant: Vyjayanthi Rao (Terreform)  


  • Carl A. Zimring (Pratt Institute) and Steven H. Corey (Columbia College Chicago)
    Wastescapes and the Building of Modern New York City: A Discard Studies Approach to Urban History

  • Dawn Biehler  (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
    Racial capitalism, discarded spaces, and surplus beings in West Baltimore

  • Martin Murray and Maria Arquero de Alarcon (University of Michigan)
    What Happens to Leftover Spaces after Abandonment? Excavating the Future of Detroit through an Examination of five Distressed Neighborhoods

  • Daniel Cumming (Johns Hopkins University)
    “All that is solid melts into air”: Burning Trash, ‘INCITE’-ing Black Power, and Externalizing Risk in the Wastelands of South Baltimore, 1961-1985

  • Raul Pacheco-Vega
    Governing discards by discarding governance? Expanding the role of informal waste pickers in municipal garbage management in Vancouver and Paris 

5:30 – 7:00 pm  Keynote Lecture by Brenda Chalfin
Professor of Anthropology; Director of the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

Introduction: Rosalind Fredericks (NYU)

Discussant:  Robyn d’Avignon (NYU)

Saturday, September 17 

8:30 – 10:00 am Panel 4: Management: Unruly Objects, Shifting States

Moderator:  Jacob Remes (NYU)

Discussant:  Andrea Marston (Rutgers University)


  • Graham Mooney (Johns Hopkins University)
     A Trainload of Neoliberal Shit

  • Olivier Barsalou (Université du Québec à Montréal)
    Global Waste (Displacement) Law

  • Alex Souchen (Trent University)
    Underwater Munitions: Military Pollution and the Legacies of Disposal

  • Sven Bergmann and Philipp Grassel (German Maritime Museum)
    Speculative ecologies and politics: Microplastics, TNT and other pollutants in the sea

  • Lily Baum Pollans (Hunter College)
    Deconstructing garbage in the weak recycling waste regime: resistance through radical reframing in Seattle

10:15 – 11:45 am Panel 5: Capital: Waste-Value Dialectics

Moderator:  TBA

Discussant:  Asher Ghertner (Rutgers University)


  • Dean Chahim (Princeton University)
    The Logistics of Waste: Engineering, Capital Accumulation, and the Growth of Mexico City

  • Rob Aitken (University of Alberta)
    Disposing Value: Financialization and the Afterlives of Global Capital

  • Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins (Bard College)
    Airbnb as Waste Management: What Discard Studies Tells us about Platform Capitalism

  • Başak Saraç-Lesavre (University of Manchester)
    From containment in the depths of the Salado Formation to container economies: Nuclear waste, an end to engagement with deep time?

  • Aparna Parikh (Pennsylvania State University)
    Urban environmental Imaginaries and Aesthetic Sensibilities in Mumbai, India

12:00-1:30 pm  Keynote Lecture by Samantha MacBride (Baruch College, CUNY)

Introduction: Mohammed Rafi Arefin (NYU)

Discussant: Robin Nagle (NYU)


New York University and Gallatin provide accommodations to people living with disabilities who wish to attend events at the School, whether in person or virtually. To request accommodations or should you have questions regarding accessibility for an event, please contact Gallatin’s Office of Special Events by emailing