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Editor in Chief: RAFFAELLO COSSU

‘BAD’ TRASH: PROBLEMATISING WASTE IN BLANTYRE, MALAWI

  • Marc Kalina - University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Elizabeth Tilley - University of Malawi, The Polytechnic, Malawi

DOI 10.31025/2611-4135/2020.13994

Released under CC BY-NC-ND

Copyright: © 2020 CISA Publisher

Editorial History

  • Received: 08 Jan 2020
  • Revised: 30 Mar 2020
  • Accepted: 15 Apr 2020
  • Available online: 24 Jul 2020

Abstract

‘Waste’ is everywhere, a common aspect of daily life in both the West and the Global South. However, the ways in which we as individuals understand it as a problem is far from universal. It does not exist independently from the people it affects, rather, waste, as a problem, is continually made and remade through human practice. The purpose of this article is to explore how and why certain ‘waste’ items are and become understood as problems. We adopt Foucault’s (1984) notion of ‘problematisa-tion’, as an analytical lens for conceptualising processes of problem formation through the eyes of two different groups working within and on the margins of Mzedi Dump Site in Blantyre, Malawi: subsistence maize growers and informal waste pickers. Drawing on extensive qualitative and ethnographic fieldwork, our findings suggests that for those working at Mzedi, waste problematisations are shaped by the tangible: the visible, and often painful impacts that Mzedi’s hazards have on their lives and livelihoods. However, the ultimate problematisation of waste lies in its utility, i.e. ‘good’ waste, is internalised based on its value. ‘Bad’ trash however, is problematised because it has no value, and is therefore considered useless, a problem taking up time and space that could be utilised more profit-ably. Understanding these processes of problem formation, and the degree to which waste problematisations are personal and/or socially constructed, has important ramifications for the adoption of appropriate waste management strategies and should inform a more nuanced and inclusive waste management studies discourse.

Keywords


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