IESC Seminar Series - ““Alchemizing Garbage: Manual versus Mechanized Approaches to Waste Management in Delhi, India” - D. Kornberg”
Institute of Environmental Sciences Seminar Series
“Alchemizing Garbage: Manual versus Mechanized Approaches to Waste Management in Delhi, India”
By Assist. Prof. Dana Kornberg, University of California, Santa Barbara
We cordially invite you to the online seminar “Alchemizing Garbage: Manual versus Mechanized Approaches to Waste Management in Delhi, India” by Assist. Prof. Dana Kornberg, University of California, Santa Barbara.
When: 26 May, Thursday, 17:00-18:30
Where: We will be sharing the Zoom link with the registrants a few days before the seminar via email. Please do not forget to register using the below link.
Registration link: https://bit.ly/IES_Seminar_Kornberg
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
This paper draws on two years of ethnographic observations and nearly 100 interviews to examine two contrasting systems for processing household waste in Delhi, India. When new garbage collection trucks were rolled out onto Delhi streets in 2009, they ran up against a system not visible from policy handbooks: hundreds of thousands of informal workers who collected garbage door-to-door in order to recycle plastics, papers, and metals and earn a living. Despite advocates’ initial concern for the future of these informal workers, my research found that after four years of the new program, most residents continued to use it, even though they charged an additional fee. In this paper, I contrast the technocratic approaches of the formal programs (epitomized by incineration) with those of manual recyclers (who sort and categorize items by hand) to examine how garbage is alchemized into money, as “fuel” for incinerators, on the one hand, and, on the other, as a series of recyclable items. I use the term alchemization as an evocative way of capturing the co-transformation of material and social categories that occurs as garbage gains value through reprocessing. I conclude by discussing how these alternative sociotechnical processes relate to different ecological imperatives.
About Dana Kornberg:
Dana Kornberg is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying racialized/casted urban environmental institutions in India and the United States. Her research has been published in venues such as Social Forces, the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, Local Environment, and the Economic & Political Weekly. She is currently working on a book titled The Garbage Economy: Pursuing Money and Scrap in Urban India’s Casted Institutions, which examines how relations based on caste and community have upheld Delhi's informal door-to-door garbage collection and recycling system in the face of formal collection trucks and incinerators. She teaches courses in urban, environmental, and economic sociology.