Toxic sights: The spectacle of hazardous waste removal

This paper examines the geographies of hazardous waste removal. Over the past decade, studies of disposal have demonstrated the myriad ways in which things can never disappear – they can only be transformed, transmuted, combusted, combined or any other manner of material change. This paper aims to develop understandings of the material politics of disposal by considering the matter of representation. It does this ethnographically, by following a chemical stockpile though the process of removal from its storage site in Tanzania. In examining everyday disposal practices, this paper highlights the materialities of hazardous waste in ways that have been epistemologically side-lined. Locating the analysis at the intersection of matter and representation, the paper illustrates the centrality of paper-work, diagrams, photographs and standard operating procedures in performing removal. It argues that removal is achieved through a bureaucratic spectacle; a process which obscures lingering residues and compounds their toxic effects. By attending to chemicals through the mundane work of removal, this paper opens up different lines of inquiry for studies of waste, and enriches understandings of materiality by considering how visual representations make a difference.

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Volume 38 Issue 4

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