Rubbish politics in Buenos Aires

Newell, Lucila María (2011). Rubbish politics in Buenos Aires. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the politics of rubbish in Buenos Aires. In the aftermath of the financial and political crisis of 2001-2002, the proliferation of carton eros (rubbish pickers) on the streets of Buenos Aires provoked a controversy around rubbish. This thesis examines the issues that were raised and the changes that followed this controversy in order to understand the different ways that rubbish matters matter in how politics is done, and in how democracy is enacted in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It uses insights from actor-network theory and theories of materiality in dialogue with political and democratic theory, worked through an ethnographic study in two different sites, Moreno and Bajo Flores.

The thesis makes three main claims. First, the analysis of the ways rubbish became political challenges discursive and agonistic accounts of the relations and things that count in the making of an issue. Secondly, this thesis shows how paying attention to the material practices that are involved in the way rubbish is governed, from its administration, collection, burial, to separation by a cooperative of carton eros, shapes a material politics that cannot easily be reduced to the formation of a unique social ordering, and thus, complicate the ways that the 'good' can be defined. Finally, this research shows how the 'good' is constructed through the staging of devices that enact and specify the meaning of particular democratic principles in the development of a participatory environmental project. In this way, this thesis demonstrates how the material geographies of rubbish matter to how politics and democracy is practiced.

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