ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Becoming Waste

Three Moments in the Life of Landfills in Mumbai City

Colonial municipal planning discourses imagined waste as infrastructure to build Bombay city by filling creeks and reclaiming land. Waste as land was reassembled through the judiciary’s remaking of the landfill as a zone of pollution to be “scientifically” closed through waste treatment technologies. Even as science attempts to comprehend its complexity and contain it, waste possesses an agency of its own that disrupts the social, haunting reclaimed real estate with its fugitive gaseous presence.

Mary Douglas’s work in Risk and Blame (1992) and Purity and Danger (2003) is useful to think about the making of waste through sociotechnical systems that reveal how societies construct and maintain power. Douglas draws attention to the scientific and cultural ways through which objects take on the social values of dirt and pollution, a process marked by the coming together of traditional behaviour of avoidance as well as the authorising power of scientific institutions to produce expert knowledge domains, including the science of sanitation, public health and urban planning.

From such a perspective, waste can be seen as created through the power of social institutions and knowledge systems which authorise the becoming of waste. Making waste as value and non-value, for instance, produces objects as either unwanted “excess,” the unruly “other” of capital (Gidwani 2015), or as a means of livelihood and a resource when reused and recycled (Chaturvedi 2003). Waste then is an archive that reveals how space is produced through the exercise of power and politics, how epistemic boundaries that define risk and pollution are formed, and how social hierarchies of caste, class and gender are restated. It discloses social systems of classifying and authorising (Bowker and Star 1999), exposes the bureaucratic ordering of civic and unplanned spaces (Legg 2007) and depicts the economic logic of attributing value to objects, places and people (Gidwani 2013).

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 6th Dec, 2019
Back to Top