Economies of Recycling: Global Transformations of Materials, Values and Social Relations

Economies of Recycling: Global Transformations of Materials, Values and Social Relations


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For some, recycling is a big business; for others a moralized way of engaging with the world. But, for many, this is a dangerous way of earning a living. With scrap now being the largest export category from the US to China, the sheer scale of this global trade has not yet been clearly identified or analyzed. Combining fine-grained ethnographic analysis with overviews of international material flows, Recycling Economies radically changes the way we understand global and local economies as well as the new social relations and identities created by recycling processes.

Following global material chains, this groundbreaking book reveals astonishing connections between persons, households, cities and global regions as objects are reworked, taken to pieces and traded. With case studies from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, China, the former Soviet Union, North America, and Europe, Recycling Economies shows how marginal economies are producing new social collectives and projects around local and global decay, often with waste labor bringing high monetary reward as well as danger.

Replacing the persistent notion of globally peripheral countries being ransacked for raw materials, which are then transformed into valuable commodities in the North, this timely collection debunks common linear understandings of production, exchange and consumption and argues for a complete re-evaluation of north-south economic relationships.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780321943
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Catherine Alexander is Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Joshua Reno teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths College.

Table of Contents

Introduction - Catherine Alexander, Joshua Reno
• Section I: Global Waste Flows
• 1. 'No Junk for Jesus': Redemptive Economies and Value Conversions in Lutheran Medical Relief Agencies - Britt Halvorson
• 2. Pandora and the Phoenix: end-of-life ships and secondary markets - Nicky Gregson et al
• 3. Economies of Nuclearity: Morality and Energopolitics - Romain Garcier
• 4. The Global Shadow Network: Transnational Flows of E-Waste and its Localization in Chin - Xin Tong, Jici Wang
• Section II: The Ethics of Waste Labour
• 5. Valuing the Dirty Work: Gendered Trashwork in Participatory Daka - Rosalind Fredericks
• 6. Stitching curtains, grinding plastic: the transformation of workers and things in Buenos Aire s- Karen Faulk
• 7. Contested meanings of work in Rio de Janeiro's recycling economy - Kathleen Millar
• 8. Sympathy and its Material Boundaries: Necropolitics, Labor and Waste on the Hooghly River - Laura Bear
• Section III: Traces of former lives
• 9. Economies of moral fiber: materializing the ambiguities of recycling charity into aid blanket - Lucy Norris
• 10. Evident excess: material deposits and American narcotics surveillance - Joshua Reno
• 11. Remont: works in progress - Catherine Alexander
• Afterword - David Graeber

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