Go Back

Text Box: Knowledge from the Margins: Speaker & Abstract
Text Box: RAINA

“Constructing a      Counter-Expertise:    Mobilizing Knowledge to Resist Bt                 Technology in India”

Rijke-Epstein, Tasha: University of Michigan

One of the most pressing problems in African cities today is the issue of waste management infrastructure.  In the centuries-old port town of Mahajanga, Madagascar, city officials consider the sanitary disposal of waste perhaps the most significant obstacle facing the city’s urban planning and public health futures.   This paper explores the history of informal economies of waste management that have emerged in the absence of a functional municipal sanitation service. Based on extensive archival and ethnographic research, I consider how participants in informal systems of waste treatment have contested and reformulated the meanings of labor, filth and citizenship through the materials of waste - excrement, trash, debris, and excess material belongings.  City dwellers recall the 1950s and 60s when the town was clean, orderly, and beautified, which many attribute to the presence of Comorian municipal workers. After the bulk of the Comorians population fled following riots in 1976, residents describe how the city’s infrastructure began to deteriorate.  Institutionalized, municipal systems for waste disposal fell apart leaving many residents to work or employ others in order to dispose of waste.  The entangled relationships of this emergent informal network of waste removal in which city dwellers find themselves has, I suggest, reproduced inequalities, moral discourses and embodied practices of cleanliness.  I argue that the politics of belonging and shifting meanings around waste materials must be understood in order to contend with contemporary dilemmas of urban planning and waste infrastructure in African cities and beyond.



“Corroded City?: Histories of Labor, Infrastructure, and the Politics of Waste in Urban Madagascar”