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Accepted Paper:

Logics of waste: Reading political and moral relationships from Cape Town's informal landscapes  
Angela Storey (University of Louisville)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how residents of informal settlements engage with waste in the context of inadequate infrastructural provision. Here, local material experiences produce a politicized framework for everyday life, which is set against the city's stigmatizing waste-related public campaigns.

Paper long abstract:

Nearly one quarter of Cape Town's population lives in informal settlements, sites characterized by limited access to basic services such as water, sanitation, and electricity, and their related formal infrastructures. In the absence of sufficient infrastructural provision, residents meet needs through a constellation of self-made fixes, such as emptying waste water into wetlands and creating shared dumps. This paper examines how local experiences reinforce resident understandings of squatted sites as political and material landscapes, interpreting ubiquitous problems with waste as evidence of the structural and spatial foundations of persistent urban exclusion. Such everyday material experiences are closely linked to multiple forms of social movement activism and community politics. Overtly politicized local understandings of waste, however, are set against public narratives generated by the City of Cape Town that emphasize individual responsibility and position informal area residents as negligent in caring for existing infrastructure and in managing waste. This paper draws from 18 months of ethnographic research in informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, to examine the intersections of these competing moral and political logics of waste. Within an increasingly privatized and commodified service landscape, I argue for the need to understand ideologies of governance by setting them against the politics of everyday life.

Panel P149
Wastescapes: spatial justice and inequalities in contemporary cities
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -