2022 RGS -IBG Conference in Newcastle, appel à communication : “Discard economies and dynamics of valuation in times of crisis”, Julia Corwin, Katharina Grüneisl, (21 mars 2022),
Discard economies and dynamics of valuation in times of crisis
Diverse discard materials and objects – including for instance electronics (Lepawsky 2018), plastics (Furniss 2015), ships (Gregson et al. 2010) or garments (Brooks 2015; Hansen 2000; Norris 2010) – form the basis of economic processes at the ‘back end’ of global value chains. A rich body of scholarly work has examined the evolving transnational trajectories (e.g. Gregson et al. 2010; Herod et al. 2014; Lepawsky and Mather 2011), as well as the place-specific cycles of circulation and exchange (e.g. Corwin 2018; Grüneisl 2020; Stamatopoulou-Robbins 2019) of different such discard materials, demonstrating how recycling, repair and reuse economies are an inherent part of the operations of contemporary global capitalism. Sometimes, valuation can be observed through physical processes of coming-apart (Gregson et al. 2010: 853) or re-assemblage and repair (Corwin 2018), and thus the mutability of discard materials in circulation. At other times, valuation occurs “without industrial labour through a process of translation” (Tsing, 2013: 23, 30) that contingently requalifies objects as commodities.
As diverse processes of discard valuation are an inherent part of the global economy – while often remaining excluded from it discursively –, waste economies and local cultures of waste work often undergo intense but underreported changes during times of political and economic upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a recent example of this, as disruptions to global flows of different discard materials, as well as situated changes to the valuation work accomplished with such materials, brought to the fore both the fragility and flexibility of the networks and mechanisms underpinning contemporary discard economies.
This session seeks to bring together researchers sharing an interest in the transformations, contingencies and openings that crises (including and beyond the global pandemic) may bring to contemporary discard economies and the diverse actors, places and processes that co-constitute them. It asks how changes in the global economy or shifts in political and social power relations impact or jeopardize established mechanisms of discard valuation, but also lead to the emergence of new processes and practices of valuation in different contexts.
The session invites papers which examine and discuss, but are not limited to,
- the adaptation, reinvention or renewal of situated cultures of ridding, reuse, repair or recycling in different contexts of economic, political and/or social upheaval, conflicts or transitions;
- the impacts of the pandemic (e.g. border closures, intermittent lockdowns), and of the ensuing macro-economic crisis, on discard economies at different scales;
- the emergence of new forms or quantities of discard (e.g. pandemic waste, or unprecedented surplus production) and of new mechanisms or dynamics of valuation;
- shifting perceptions and meanings of different discard materials and valuation practices (e.g. what constitutes hazardous materials or risky work) in times of crisis;
- changing configurations of work and social relations in discard economies, triggering the emergence of new hierarchies and forms of inequality, but also practices of coping, care and commoning;
- transformations of the spatial parameters underpinning valuation processes, from shifts in transnational geographies of circulation, to situated changes in sites of discard valuation or the production of new spaces for practices of ridding, recycling, repair or reuse;
- contingent processes of de-/re-valuation and their limitations (waste beyond commodities).
We are planning to hold this session in-person at the 2022 RGS-IBG conference in Newcastle. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to session conveners Julia Corwin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Katharina Grüneisl (email@example.com), by 21 March 2022.