The material and social intimacies of waste infrastructures
Penny Harvey (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on an ethnographic study of attempts to bring new waste infrastructures into being in the Cusco region of Peru, this paper considers the material and social articulations that such infrastructures imply, and the difficulties in assuming ‘common’ responsibility for environmental care.
Paper long abstract:
Dealing with the dramatic increase in solid waste has become an issue not just for the urban populations who struggle to find spaces adequate for disposal, but for rural and peri-urban populations who are frequently expected to accommodate, and live alongside the discarded matter of other people's lives. Waste disposal is politically contentious as it involves an unwanted intimacy with materials that smell, that attract vermin, affect land values, and prejudice other activities. However, contemporary waste disposal initiatives also work to transform discarded matter into material of value and the ownership of waste and the rights and capacities to transform it, produce new tensions over the emergent relationships between disposers and disposed. At a time when the World Bank is explicitly looking to deliver its development initiatives in the form of infrastructural projects, this paper considers the particular modes of collaboration that such projects require from local populations. The paper argues that these collaborations require new material and social intimacies, both in terms of material reconfigurations of the environment and in terms of the reconfigured political constituencies with responsibility to sustain the new socio-material arrangements. Drawing on an ethnographic study of attempts to bring new waste infrastructures into being in the Cusco region of Peru, this paper considers the specific and diverse material and social articulations that such infrastructures imply, and explores how the possibilities for a 'common' responsibility for environmental care are negotiated in spaces of distributed sovereignty and decentralized environmental governance.
Intimacies of infrastructure