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Author:Tridibesh Dey (University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
This paper grapples with the variegated evidence of plastics within the multiple urban life-worlds of Ahmedabad. It interrogates the policies and practices of managing plastic ubiquities, their situatedness, and the diverse stakes and consequences.
Paper long abstract:
Staying with the themes of intractability and evidence, this paper seeks to interrogate the so-called “ubiquity” of plastics. It argues to the effect that the commonness (even, everywhere-ness), often associated with these sets of synthetic polymer materials in scientific and non-scientific discourses, may not be so common, after all. That is, ubiquities may be enacted, multiple (Mol, 1999), with specific cultural, spatial, material and political economic underpinnings, associated practices, meanings, policies, livelihood opportunities, violent ends – sometimes, all co-existing in tension. As such, I will investigate specific enactments of ubiquity and the various abilities to respond to these.The discussion is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Ahmedabad, India, practised discontinuously between 2015 and early 2019, and pertain mainly to the multiple practices of managing plastic waste in the public spaces of the city (streets, sidewalks, public parks, gardens…). Methodologically, I follow narratives and practices of self-employed plastic pickers, civic authorities and their private agents in waste collection, and that of members of Ahmedabad civil society. In particular, the complex discourse of sanitized public spaces (Chakrabarty, 1992) and its practical enactments, especially under the “Clean India” campaign, variously intra-act with the caste-based, gendered livelihood practices of “looking out for” (Simone, 2018) plastics. I ask: what do these practitioners make of plastics’ presence in various locations (whether at home or in consumption spaces, or in various disposal/dump sites, including public spaces)? Which ubiquities are desired, which ones aren’t – for whom? How are ubiquities managed, how is situatedness secured, and what are the consequences?
Intractable plastic: responsibilities in ‘plasticized’ worlds I