The last twenty-five years in Dakar have seen countless institutional reorganizations in the city’s municipal trash collection system, an explosion of informal recycling and disposal practices, frequent and prolonged garbage strikes, and widespread concerted acts of public dumping. Fredericks’s article examines the messy politics of trash in Dakar through considering the infrastructure of municipal garbage collection as a critical site of contestation around urban citizenship. The devolution of the central burdens of garbage infrastructure onto labor has meant that municipal trash collectors and the other citizens informally managing garbage in the home, community, and garbage dump are called upon to serve as the backbone of the city’s waste collection and disposal architecture. The material relations between infrastructure and labor are probed for what they reveal about practices of government performed through differentially ordering spaces and disciplining residents via the burdens of dirt, microbes, and abjection associated with laboring in filth. Social and bodily technologies are thus revealed to be key elements within a wider gamut of techniques constituting urban infrastructure. At the same time, strikes, dumping, and workers’ appeals to the value of cleaning in Islam are shown to subvert ordering paradigms through disrupting the proper flow of waste disposal and inverting its negative associations. The intimacy of this low-tech labor infrastructure and the specificity of waste’s material and discursive dimensions provide fertile ground on which to contest the disposability of labor and lay bare the ethics of infrastructure.
Research Article| December 01 2014
Rosalind Fredericks; Vital Infrastructures of Trash in Dakar. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2014; 34 (3): 532–548. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2826085
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