My diverse research interests are linked by a fascination with materials and devices that become sites of social controversy and creativity, particularly those technologies, both wondrous and humble, which are designed to cope with waste, climate change, disease and disability.
Most of my research has focused on ‘mass waste’, a particular material associated with liberal governance and the systematic redistribution of effluent for the sake of health and order. Mass waste thus mediates between forms of permanence and impermanence—the preservation of built environments and their inhabitants, and the elimination of the unstable and transient elements they shed. I have explored mass waste as both a market product and a political technique: first, the controversial growth of landfills and trans-boundary waste trafficking in the Great Lakes region of North America and, more recently, the techno-politics of transforming waste into a sustainable resource and solution to climate change in the UK.
I received my PhD in Socio-cultural Anthropology in 2008 from the University of Michigan based on my Dissertation, "Out of Place,." It explores the political economy of waste circulation, its transformation of landscapes, lives and communities in North America, and its relationship to environmental politics and neo-liberalism. It is based primarily on fieldwork conducted in and around a large landfill on the periphery of Detroit that accepts most of its waste from Toronto, Canada. American waste importation is a peculiar irony of neoliberal governance and NAFTA, which shield waste from regulation as if it were an ordinary good. As both a landfill employee and a participant in local activism opposed to the waste trade, I followed the waste as it was labored upon, profited from, and politicized into a public concern. I argue that while waste adheres to bodies, identities, communities, and environments as a form of pollution, its material and symbolic ambiguity makes possible certain forms of creative expression and transformation, including ecological invention, scavenging, the revival of local rituals, and social protest. The circulation of waste thus becomes implicated in imposing and contesting different kinds of social power - from managerial discipline in postindustrial workplaces, to border patrols and the governmentality of NAFTA - ultimately because it serves as a means of negotiating between categories of transient and durable form or, more generally, impermanence and permanence.
WASTE OF THE WORLD
After leaving Michigan assumed a research postdoc at Goldsmiths College in London, working with the interdisciplinary Waste of the World Programme . From 2008-2009 I researched alternative waste treatment technologies being promoted by the UK government - from low-tech anaerobic digestors to sophisticated gasifiers and pyrolyzers - I examined the creation of so-called "Clean Energy Economies," a utopian vision of a future Green Capitalism restructured around an ostensibly "new" politics of matter and energy. I am exploring the promotion of experimental technologies and the construction of evidence through public demonstrations in the UK as well as attempts in the EU and abroad to reconcile the cultural figure of Homo ecologicus with that of Homo economicus , environmental values (such as climate change mitigation) with capitalist profit mechanisms and financial instruments.
NEW MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES
Most recently I worked on an FP7 Science in Society research project titled ‘HealthGovMatters’. In collaboration with partners in Austria and Germany, we explored the role of UK patients, professionals and their respective organizations in the development and application of new medical technologies. We were most interested in the growing application of "converging technologies" (those at the intersection of nanoscience, biotechnology, information science, and cognitive science) in the clinical research and treatment of neuro-genetic conditions, specifically autism, epilepsy and migraine. Some of the more exotic examples of converging technologies, which inspired the original research grant, include new imaging techniques, the use of nanobodies and nanoparticles in new pharmaceuticals and therapies, and brain-computer interfaces.
My involvement in HealthGovMatters is part of a broader interest in the implications of new technologies for conceptions of human agency and impairment. I am presently revising an article entitled "Technically Speaking" that critically engages with post-human theoretical approaches to these topics and explores experimental contemporary sites where the boundaries of the human are being decided and contested.
In October of 2009, I heard Dr. Kenneth Harris give a talk at Imperial College's Neuro-science Technology Symposium on what I will call the capitalist brain. Now by this I do not mean the brain of a capitalist nor even the brain as molded by one (e.g., the news media has popularized the developing practices of…Continue
Posted on December 12, 2010 at 5:00am — 5 Comments