2 Jun 2017 - 3 Jun 2017 All day Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


Registration for this conference is now closed.



Patrick O'Hare (University of Cambridge)

Keynote Lecture – Zsuzsa Gille (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) – Overflows, Agencement, and Inequalities of the Circular Economy



This conference explores the socio-material interfaces where waste meets politics in the present. It brings together a group of established and emergent waste scholars from across the social sciences to discuss the contemporary dynamics of waste and waste labour in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Five themed panels – on infrastructure, labour, circulation, elimination and reconceptualization– provide a structure through which waste will be explored in all its complexity.

Drawing largely on ethnographic research, presenters will debate how legal, regulatory, cultural, bio-political and economic factors influence what is configured and classified as waste. Can we speak of ‘waste regimes’? What role do religion, class and race play in determining the division of waste labour? Are formalization and privatization of waste management leading to the dignification or dispossession of waste workers? Can ethnographic and sociological explorations of the materialities of waste politics challenge normative understandings and definitions of waste, commodity and value? Are ideas like 'zero waste' and the 'circular economy' green modernist fables or realizable policies, and how do they reconfigure existing patterns of accumulation and inequality?

The conference will be accompanied by an art and photographic exhibition in the Alison Richards building. 

The keynote lecture, 'Overflows, Agencement, and Inequalities of the Circular Economy', will be given by Professor Zsuzsa Gille (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Friday 2 June at 4.15pm. This is a public event and is open to all, free of charge. 




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the Centre of Latin American Studies, and the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.


Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


We are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants; the following websites may, however, be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage


Day 1 - Friday 2 June
9.30 - 10.00

Registration & Coffee 

10.00 - 10.15


10.15 - 12.30

Panel 1: Infrastructure

Discussant: Joshua O. Reno (Binghamton University)


Waqas Butt (University of California San Diego)

'Legitimacy as Fetish: Documenting Work in Lahore’s Waste Infrastructures'


Yannis Kallianos (University of Duisburg-Essen)

'Disorder and the Politics of Waste Infrastructure in Athens in Times of Crisis'


Francisco Calafate-Faria (Birkbeck, University of London) 

'The Infrastructure of the Recycling Utopia – Waste-pickers in “the Ecological Capital City”' 

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.45

Panel 2: Labour                                  

Discussant: Sian Lazar (University of Cambridge)


Santiago Sorroche (University of Buenos Aires- CONICET)

'Organizing cartoneros. The Development of Waste-picker Associations in Argentina'


Dominic Martin (University of Cambridge)

'From scrapping submarines to extreme ecotourism: work and post-work in the Russian Far East'


Andrew Sanchez (University of Cambridge)

'Relative Precarity: Decline, Hope and the Politics of Work'

15.45 -16.15


16.15 - 17.45

Keynote – Open Lecture

Zsuzsa Gille (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

'Overflows, Agencement, and Inequalities of the Circular Economy'

17.45 - 18.30

Drinks Reception

Day 2 - Saturday 3 June
9.00 - 10.30

Panel 3: Circulation

Discussant: Christos Lynteris (University of Cambridge)


Declan Murray (University of Edinburgh)

‘”Items beyond repair”: The disposal of solar products in Kenya'


Josh Lepawsky (Memorial University)

'Looking Again in a Different way: Digital Methods meets Discard Studies'

10.30 - 11.00


11.00 - 13.15

Panel 4: Elimination

Discussant: Matthew Gandy (University of Cambridge)


Catherine Alexander (University of Durham)

'When Waste disappears or … More Waste Please!'


Lucy J. Wishart (University of St Andrews)

'Let’s Get Organised: Critically Exploring the Future of Zero Waste'


Joshua O. Reno (Binghamton University)

'Wasting People Well: Lean Manufacturing Standards and the Politics of American Military Contract Procurement'

13.15 - 14.00


14.00 - 16.15

Panel 5: Reconceptualization

Discussant: Geoffrey Kantaris (University of Cambridge)


Jamie Furniss (University of Edinburgh)

'Reverse-NIMBYism: Environmental politics when waste is a resource'      


Kathleen Millar (Simon Frazer University)

'Garbage as Racialization'


Patrick O’Hare (Cambridge)

'Commoning at the Cantera and Beyond: Hygienic Enclosure and Montevideo’s Waste Commons'

16.15 - 17.00

Closing Discussion

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk