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Hardcover | $11.75 Short | £9.95 | 304 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 map, 2 tables | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262017992
Paperback | $30.00 Short | £24.95 | 304 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 map, 2 tables | September 2012 | ISBN: 9780262517829
eBook | $21.00 Short | October 2012 | ISBN: 9780262306607
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Histories of the Dustheap

Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice


Garbage, considered both materially and culturally, elicits mixed responses. Our responsibility toward the objects we love and then discard is entangled with our responsibility toward the systems that make those objects. Histories of the Dustheap uses garbage, waste, and refuse to investigate the relationships between various systems--the local and the global, the economic and the ecological, the historical and the contemporary--and shows how this most democratic reality produces identities, social relations, and policies.

The contributors first consider garbage in subjective terms, examining “toxic autobiography” by residents of Love Canal, the intersection of public health and women’s rights, and enviroblogging. They explore the importance of place, with studies of post-Katrina soil contamination in New Orleans, e-waste disposal in Bloomington, Indiana, and garbage on Mount Everest. And finally, they look at cultural contradictions as objects hover between waste and desirability, examining Milwaukee’s efforts to sell its sludge as fertilizer, the plastics industry’s attempt to wrap plastic bottles and bags in the mantle of freedom of choice, and the idea of obsolescence in the animated film The Brave Little Toaster.

Histories of the Dustheap offers a range of perspectives on a variety of incarnations of garbage, inviting the reader to consider garbage in a way that goes beyond the common “buy green” discourse that empowers individuals while limiting environmental activism to consumerist practices.

About the Editors

Stephanie Foote is Associate Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana andChampaign and the author of Regional Fictions.

Elizabeth Mazzolini is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech.

Table of Contents

  • Histories of the Dustheap
  • Urban and Industrial Environments
  • Series editor: Robert Gottlieb, Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy, Occidental College
  • For a complete list of books published in this series, please see the back of the book.
  • Histories of the Dustheap
  • Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice
  • edited by Stephanie Foote and Elizabeth Mazzolini
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • MIT Press books may be purchased at special quantity discounts for business or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail or write to Special Sales Department, The MIT Press, 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142.
  • This book was set in Sabon by the MIT Press. Printed on recycled paper and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Histories of the dustheap: waste, material cultures, social justice / edited by Stephanie Foote and Elizabeth Mazzolini.
  • p. cm. — (Urban and industrial environments) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-262-01799-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-262-51782-9 (pbk. :alk. paper) 1. Refuse and refuse disposal—Social aspects. 2. Refuse and refuse disposal—Political aspects. 3. Waste products—Social aspects. 4. Waste products—Political aspects. 5. Material culture. I. Foote, Stephanie. II. Mazzolini, Elizabeth, 1973– HD4482.H57 2012 363.72'8—dc23 2012007130
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction: Histories of the Dustheap 1
  • Elizabeth Mazzolini and Stephanie Foote
  • I The Subjectivities of Garbage 19
  • 1 Darker Shades of Green: Love Canal, Toxic Autobiography, and American Environmental Writing 21
  • Richard Newman
  • 2 “The Most Radical View of the Whole Subject”: George E. Waring Jr., Domestic Waste, and Women’s Rights 49
  • William Gleason
  • 3 Enviroblogging: Clearing Green Space in a Virtual World 73
  • Stephanie Foote
  • II The Places of Garbage 95
  • 4 Missing New Orleans: Tracking Knowledge and Ignorance through an Urban Hazardscape 97
  • Scott Frickel
  • 5 What Gets Buried in a Small Town: Toxic E-Waste and Democratic Frictions in the Crossroads of the United States
  • 119
  • Phaedra C. Pezzullo
  • 6 The Garbage Question on Top of the World 147
  • Elizabeth Mazzolini
  • III The Cultural Contradictions of Garbage 169
  • 7 Purification or Profit: Milwaukee and the Contradictions of Sludge 171
  • Daniel Schneider
  • 8 The Rising Tide against Plastic Waste: Unpacking Industry Attempts to Influence the Debate 199
  • Jennifer Clapp
  • 9 Time Out of Mind: The Animation of Obsolescence in
  • The Brave Little Toaster
  • 227
  • Marisol Cortez
  • Conclusion: Object Lessons
  • 253
  • Stephanie Foote and Elizabeth Mazzolini
  • About the Contributors 261
  • Index 263
  • Series List 293


“The editors of this volume have done a remarkable job of framing the collection in a coherent and engaging fashion and choosing contributions that come together and build on each other quite well. Foote and Mazzolini also offer a substantive and creative Introduction and Conclusion that expand on the major points of the book and present new and exciting questions and productive directions for environmental studies.”—Human Ecology


Histories of the Dustheap is a major step forward in critical environmental studies. This collection of original essays powerfully articulates a multidisciplinary framework that challenges and changes the terms of discussion and debate with respect to how we think about and relate to waste as a social category. Stephanie Foote and Elizabeth Mazzolini have produced a volume that will soon become a part of the environmental studies canon.”
David Naguib Pellow, Don A. Martindale Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota; author of Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice
“Fascinating contributor case studies move from poorly designed nineteenth-century privies to twenty-first- century concerns over e-waste, toxic sludge, and trash accumulating on the world’s tallest mountain. Together these lively essays illustrate why hyper-attention to proliferating plastic shopping bags and empty soda cans may obscure larger problems with production and distribution systems that rely on packaging and long distance transport. More important, this book authoritatively explicates the links between deepening environmental injustices and structural inequalities and illustrates why study of trash is as critical for academics as it is for activists.”
Joni Adamson, author of American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place
Histories of the Dustheap is refreshing and thought-provoking. It fits nicely into a genre of work that confronts waste issues from a broad cultural perspective. I like the variety of points of view in this volume that cross over several disciplines without fitting too neatly into any category. This is an accessible book that will find many readers.”
Martin V. Melosi, author of The Sanitary City and Garbage in the Cities