Josh Lepawsky

Josh Lepawsky is Professor of Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and the author of Reassembling Rubbish (MIT Press).

  • Discard Studies

    Wasting, Systems, and Power

    Max Liboiron and Josh Lepawsky

    An argument that social, political, and economic systems maintain power by discarding certain people, places, and things.

    Discard studies is an emerging field that looks at waste and wasting broadly construed. Rather than focusing on waste and trash as the primary objects of study, discard studies looks at wider systems of waste and wasting to explore how some materials, practices, regions, and people are valued or devalued, becoming dominant or disposable. In this book, Max Liboiron and Josh Lepawsky argue that social, political, and economic systems maintain power by discarding certain people, places, and things. They show how the theories and methods of discard studies can be applied in a variety of cases, many of which do not involve waste, trash, or pollution.

    Liboiron and Lepawsky consider the partiality of knowledge and offer a theory of scale, exploring the myth that most waste is municipal solid waste produced by consumers; discuss peripheries, centers, and power, using content moderation as an example of how dominant systems find ways to discard; and use theories of difference to show that universalism, stereotypes, and inclusion all have politics of discard and even purification—as exemplified in “inclusive” efforts to broaden the Black Lives Matter movement. Finally, they develop a theory of change by considering “wasting well,” outlining techniques, methods, and propositions for a justice-oriented discard studies that keeps power in view.

    • Paperback $20.00
  • Reassembling Rubbish

    Reassembling Rubbish

    Worlding Electronic Waste

    Josh Lepawsky

    An examination of the global trade and traffic in discarded electronics that reframes the question of the “right” thing to do with e-waste.

    The prevailing storyline about the problem of electronic waste frames e-waste as generated by consumers in developed countries and dumped on people and places in developing countries. In Reassembling Rubbish, Josh Lepawsky offers a different view. In an innovative analysis of the global trade and traffic in discarded electronics, Lepawsky reframes the question of the “right” thing to do with e-waste, mapping the complex flows of electronic materials. He counters the assumption that e-waste is a post-consumer problem, pointing out that waste occurs at all stages of electronic materials' existence, and calls attention to the under-researched world of reuse and repair.

    Lepawsky explains that there are conflicting legal distinctions between electronic waste and non-waste, and examines a legal case that illustrates the consequences. He shows that patterns of trade do not support the dominant narrative of e-waste dumping but rather represent the dynamic ecologies of repair, refurbishment, and materials recovery. He asks how we know waste, how we measure it, and how we construe it, and how this affects our efforts to mitigate it. We might not put so much faith in household recycling if we counted the more massive amounts of pre-consumer electronic waste as official e-waste. Lepawsky charts the “minescapes,” “productionscapes,” and “clickscapes” of electronics, and the uneven “discardscapes” they produce. Finally, he considers both conventional and unconventional e-waste solutions, including decriminalizing export for reuse, repair, and upgrade; enabling ethical trade in electronics reuse, repair, refurbishment, and recycling; implementing extended producer responsibility; and instituting robust forms of public oversight.

    • Hardcover $99.00
    • Paperback $35.00