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Waste and its Disguises: Technologies of (Un)knowing

Alexander, Catherine; O’Hare, Patrick

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Patrick O’Hare


The introduction to this special issue starts with a brief thematisation of the key theoretical interventions in the anthropology of waste in order to situate our own contribution. We follow this by discussing, and adding to the recent anthropology and sociology of ignorance and not knowing, before turning to the intersections between waste and ignorance, thinking through how we and other scholars have theorised ways of deflecting attention away from wastes, whether they are lands, material or human bodies. We broadly categorise these technologies of deflection and unknowing into ‘spatial’, ‘temporal’, ‘epistemological’, ‘calculative’ and ‘rhetorical’. Specific techniques within these categories serve to eclipse other ways of knowing (i.e. the sensory, affective aspects of waste (e)valuation) and often depoliticise decisions concerning wastes, places, materials, people and their livelihoods.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 30, 2020
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Apr 27, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 12, 2020
Journal Ethnos
Print ISSN 0014-1844
Electronic ISSN 1469-588X
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 88
Issue 3
Pages 419-443
Public URL


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (1.9 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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