Theme 2: The Environment

An examination of cultural economies of dirt.

This strand will involve a comparative examination of the cultures and economies of recycling, consumption and waste disposal. In a climate where city-dwellers are imminently set to outnumber rural populations for the first time in Africa, African urban subjects often produce ingenious responses to the flows of local and international commodities and resources in their cities. Especial emphasis will be placed on the cultural politics of trash and the rubbish tip. This strand will analyse the cultural significance of the rubbish dump as a symbolic space in Nairobi and Lagos that yields information about creative and distributive practices in local economies. African artistic and commercial uses of recycled ‘trash’ will also be assessed in this strand. What kind of ‘archive’ is represented by trash across cultures? The very concept of trash will be problematised by the cross-cultural dimensions of this strand, which will also address the practical and methodological problems involved in collecting, preserving and cataloguing ephemera or rubbish.