The Contradictions of Inclusion in Urban Sustainability
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 10 b&w illus.
- Published: January 2, 2024
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An ethnographic and community-engaged study of the class, caste, and gender politics of environmental mobilizations around Bengaluru, India's discards.
In Recycling Class, Manisha Anantharaman examines the ideas, flows, and relationships around unmanaged discards in Bengaluru, India, itself a massive environmental problem of planetary proportions, to help us understand what types of coalitions deliver social justice within sustainability initiatives. Recycling Class links middle-class, sustainable consumption with the environmental labor of the working poor to offer a relational analysis of urban sustainability politics and practice. Through ethnographic, community-based research, Anantharaman shows how diverse social groups adopt, contest, and modify neoliberal sustainability's emphasis on market-based solutions, behavior change, and the aesthetic conflation of “clean” with “green.”
Tracing garbage politics in Bengaluru for over a decade, Anantharaman argues that middle-class “communal sustainability” efforts create new avenues for waste picker organizations to make claims for infrastructural inclusion. Coproduced “DIY infrastructures” serve as sites of citizenship and political negotiation, challenging the technocratic and growth-based logics of dominant sustainability policies. Yet, these configurations reproduce class, caste, and gender-based divisions of labor, demonstrating that inclusion without social reform can reproduce unjust distributions of risk and responsibility. Revealing the win-win fallacy of sustainability and foregrounding the agency of communities excluded from environmental policy, Recycling Class will appeal to scholars and activists alike who want to create a future with more transformative sustainability.
“Here is the book that we have been waiting for—a nuanced and authentic account of the politics of waste, class, caste, and sustainability in globalizing Bengaluru that disrupts taken-for-granted assumptions.”
Malini Ranganathan, Associate Professor, American University; coauthor of Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City
“This urgent book introduces in completely new ways crucial ideas for the politics of the circular economy by demonstrating waste pickers' transformative capacity as agents of reparation in a wasteful urban world.”
Vanesa Castan Broto, Professor of Climate Urbanism, University of Sheffield
“A rich, theoretically robust analysis of the empirically challenging topic of governing waste and informal waste work. An incredible read!”
Raul Pacheco-Vega, Associate Professor, Methods Lab, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) Mexico
“A dazzling, ingenious analysis of how marginalized workers and zero-waste advocates are advancing environmental justice in Bengaluru. Yet, as she warns, discriminatory hierarchies and subordinating social structures must be dismantled to ensure local sustainability actions transform city life.”
Peter Dauvergne, Professor of International Relations, University of British Columbia; author of AI in the Wild