Paper short abstract:
At the Warlpiri community of Nyirrpi, a unique aspect of life is living in proximity with waste. In this paper, I analyse Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations at Nyirrpi through the lens of Warlpiri as well as local government perspectives on waste material and approaches to its management.
Paper long abstract:
A unique aspect of living at the small, Warlpiri community of Nyirrpi, central Australia, is that you find yourself living intimately not only with many people but also with your collective waste. In his book Waste Away (2016) Joshua Reno reveals the distancing effect of large-scale waste management practices: a disconnect from the materiality and effects of waste itself, as it is whisked away from view to distant landfills, as well as a social separation between waste workers and waste makers. Taking my cue from Reno, I ask what the implications are when the opposite is true: when relationships with and around waste are physically and socially intimate. To unpack this question, I analyse waste at Nyirrpi from two angles. On the one hand, Warlpiri people often live with waste material - finding new uses for waste at home, and sometimes scavenging and re-homing found items from the tip (to the sometimes distaste of non-Indigenous residents). Further, the domestic labour of cleaning up rubbish at home is deeply embedded in Warlpiri relationships based on care and reciprocity. On the other hand, local government waste management practices are akin to what Reno describes above. (Re)-categorised in terms of danger and contamination, waste ceases to be that with which humans can live with or (re)-use: its handling becomes embedded in regulatory systems, as its handlers are in labour relations. Taking these combined perspectives and practices of living with waste, my paper ultimately asks what this entails for Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations at Nyirrpi.
Life after waste