Your Trash is Someone's Treasure: the Politics of Value at a Michigan Landfill
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This article discusses scavenging and dumping as alternative approaches to deriving value from rubbish at a large Michigan landfill. Both practices are attuned to the indeterminacy and power of abandoned things, but in different ways. Whereas scavenging relies on acquiring familiarity with an object by getting to know its particular qualities, landfilling and other forms of mass disposal make discards fungible and manipulable by stripping them of their former identities. By way of examining the different ways in which people become invested in the politics of value at the landfill, whether as part of expressions of gender and class or for personal enjoyment, different comportments toward materiality are revealed to have underlying social and moral implications. In particular, it is argued that different approaches to the evaluation of rubbish involve competing understandings of human and material potential.