Amy Zhang: From Dirty Work to Green Labor: The Political Economy of Recycling
About This Event
As a part of an effort to build sustainable cities in the early 2000s in Guangzhou, state and civil society groups aimed to re-cast recycling as voluntary green labor performed by urban residents. The process of the formalization of citizen recycling, however, encroached up access to scraps for sanitation workers, an urban poor who have come to rely on the collection and selling of scraps to subsidize their increasingly precarious work conditions. This talk describes how sanitation workers invoked a moral economy of free taking and devised new strategies of reclamation to stake their claims to waste as a resource. The channels, flows and practices of waste’s diversion that made up an infrastructure of labor are not only sites of green governance, but they also reconfigure access and ownership. The labor practices that facilitated waste’s circulation and diversion also grounded a politics of distribution and morality.
Amy Zhang, Department of Anthropology, New York University