Politics of Waste Infrastructure: How Rural Tibetans Use Sacred Trash to Negotiate Their Empowerment
Le WIP reçoit ce mois Dr. Bo Wang du laboratoire d’anthropologie
Tuesday 26 November 2019 (12h15 - 13h15) - Géopolis - 5313
Waste infrastructure, defined as waste materials and waste management practices together with institutions and ideas that shape them, is grounding our understanding of variegated politics of waste. “Sacred trash” are those objects (usually prayer flags and personal garments) which are placed on sacred sites to communicate with spirits but treated as if trash once accumulated in excessive amounts. This ambiguity invites scrutiny. In this talk, I focus on the materiality of waste infrastructure and sacred trash by delving into the world of solid waste in the rural and ethnic Tibetan areas in Yunnan, a southwestern Chinese province. By detailing the conflicting perspectives of Tibetan peasants, Han tourists, and local government officials, I investigate their negotiations on what is waste and what is sacred trash; and how the inter-ethnic Tibetan-Han relations are revealed and perpetuated in “trash talks.” I argue that this kind of politics of waste centering tactically on sacred trash rather than solid waste management, more-than-human rather than development-ism, constitutes a form of empowerment of those living on the margins. Moreover, through an analysis of environmental activism shaped by sacred trash, I locate the everyday resistance surrounding waste in the larger political ecology where inequality and conflicts emerge between the marginalized rural Tibetans and the authoritarian Chinese state. Finally, this field-based research generates insights on useful tactics for disadvantaged people and groups worldwide who are excluded from waste infrastructure and yet whose environments are besieged by enormous trash.
LINES, Ibrahima Dina Diatta et Maud Reveilhac