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Accepted Paper:

Current Issues around Waste in Sofia, Bulgaria Cultural History of the Category and Contemporary Transformations. Waste as a Struggle, Waste as a Festivity  


Velislava Petrova (Sofia University)

Paper short abstract:

Waste functions as a source of symbolic capital used during elections in Sofia. Thus alienates the subject from those who treat and manage it on a daily basis and links it to topics such as unemployment and technology. As a result the topic of environmental hazards of waste is rarely addressed.

Paper long abstract:

Waste has always followed human civilization through its history. However, it has just recently become such a complicated topic. The process of its physical decomposition challenges the boundary between nature and culture (Edensor, 2005; Reno, 2016). While waste materiality plays a central role in the imagination around the category, pre-defines its treatment and management. Those specifics within the construction of waste as a materiality, the reactions it engenders deeply influence human and institutional behavior about waste treatment but also the way it is constructed as an economic category.

The EU framework in the Bulgarian post-socialist context has even a deeper effect on the relation towards waste. Apart from the local and historically rooted transformations, the administrative pressure of the EU legislation harmonization process brings new dimensions on the regulations, conceptualizations and treatments of waste. Narratives on waste have become plural, and garbage itself gets lost within the multiplicity of categories each of them demanding its own approach of dealing with.

In the case of Sofia, waste function primarily as a resource used at a level of politics intended at gaining symbolic capital. Alienating the subject from those who actually recycle and manage it on a daily basis, technologizing discourses and hiding waste enhance its symbolic potential but alienate it from its materiality. Moving waste into the field of election campaigns and linking it to topics such as unemployment and technology exacerbates this effect, while refusing to concentrate efforts on waste treatment provokes even more intense imagination around the category.

Panel P165
Environmental Hazards and the European Periphery