What is it to be entangled with such structures – and the profusion of nonhuman life they attract – with names like High Island 389-A? Structures that the Interior Department enacts as “nonproducing ocean structures”? That the oil and gas industry enacts as “idle iron”? And that marine scientists enact as “habitat”? I love this about discard studies, this ontological undecidability, that sites like High Island 389-A generate. What is this thing and its constellation of nonhuman life, the agency of which transforms the thing again and also into ‘island’ and ‘reef’? How might we orient ourselves to the ethical relations it generates? Is the impending demolition and recycling of these structures also habitat destruction?
I recently ran across this excellent blog: Discard Studies.
Here’s what they wrote in their “About” section:
The new multidisciplinary field of discard studies considers definitions of, attitudes toward, and behaviors around waste, broadly defined. This blog is meant as an online gathering place for scholars, activists, environmentalists, students, artists, planners, and anyone else whose work touches on themes relevant to the study of discard.Discard practices involve many elements, including these:
- social customs
- labor arrangements
- resource stocks and flows
- economic relationships
- cultural assumptions
- public health controversies
- political histories
Attitudes about discards as things and discarding as a practice are informed by deeply held and sometimes contradictory notions of value, worthlessness, disgust, and the boundaries of the self
Discard studies as a field in its own right has rich potential, drawing upon but going beyond approaches to waste undertaken in disciplines of cultural anthropology, economics, sociology, archaeology, history, and environmental studies, to name a few.
A growing number of researchers from all of these disciplines are asking questions about waste, not just as an ecological problem, but as a process, as a category of rejected material goods, as a mentality, as a judgment, as an infrastructural and economic challenge, as a political risk, and as a source of creativity.