28. 7. 2023

Presentation about what we may learn from landfilling


Daniel presented a paper at the conference ‘Re-opening the Bin 2023’, panel Epistemologies (I): Framing & Methods 1 chaired by Hervé Corvellec, Lancaster, 15-17 June, 2023.

What do Landfills teach us?

Sosna, Daniel

Landfilling in Europe is ringing the bell. Landfills represent one of the last incarnations of human long-term strategy to dispose of the unwanted matter via dumping. They, however, became an endangered species on the verge of extinction. Although engineers admit that some kind of final sink for residues is inevitable, landfilling in Europe is predominantly depicted as an outdated technology destined to be eliminated. While there is little doubt that landfills document the failure to contain our wastes with all the subsequent hazards, have enabled voracious capitalism to grow, and invited illegal shortcuts in waste management, I would like to shift attention to life-sustaining and reflexive qualities of landfills. Based on my ethnographic and garbological research at Czech landfills, I will present landfills as places that support various forms of life to thrive and mediate multispecies relations. Human waste pickers, plants, amphibians, birds, mammals and other creatures’ engagement with garbage can create new ecologies that spread beyond the landfills themselves. Also, landfills can be understood as multimodal heritage. They are museums of the future capturing ways of life and spatiotemporal relations inscribed in materiality of garbage itself. Practices of waste pickers and non-human organisms not only develop and perpetuate specific skills but also provide a rich material for reflection on the collaborative rescue of value, moral reasoning and action, perception of labour, or social inequality and stigmatization. My intention is not to romanticize landfilling but to argue that it offers much more than its potential for harm.