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Animal waste work: The case of urban sewage management in Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. (Cultural Matters Group)
2019 (English)In: Contemporary Social Science, ISSN 2158-2041, E-ISSN 2158-205XArticle in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Urban infrastructures such as wastewater services are essential to the functioning of cities. Through waste work, sewage gets transformed and revalued. Non-humans are potentially unruly agents in the transformation of “dirty” sewage into biogas, a “clean” energy resource in environmental terms. But these values are not given or applied in any simple sense. What goes on under the surface, beneath the street or inside a pile of dirt is the invaluable work that constitutes a city’s multispecies waste management. The article argues that rats, worms and microbes perform labour in the urban wastewater economy, as they eat, digest and breed. This article investigates the role of these non-human waste workers and the cultural and economic values they produce in the intersections between the socio-technical infrastructures where the urban and the animal meet. The article makes use of “trash-tracing” as a method and follows the multiple steps taken in the chain of sewage management in the city of Gävle, Sweden. It contributes new knowledge on the waste ecologies of cities by paying close attention to shifting and paradoxical valuations of wastewater, as it is configured through nonhuman work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Value, rat, infrastructure, bacteria, worm, trash
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-387610DOI: 10.1080/21582041.2019.1630669OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-387610DiVA, id: diva2:1329537
Projects
Waste Work in the Sustainability Economy: Transforming Values of Biological Waste
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2017-02142Available from: 2019-06-24 Created: 2019-06-24 Last updated: 2019-06-25Bibliographically approved

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