Spatial Reorganization and Distributions of Life in China
3: Alternative Circuits: The Space-time of Waste Labor in Urban China
Saturday, March 26, 2022
10:30am – 12:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
New York University, United States
This paper examines the effects of China’s green urbanism on informal scrap collectors whose work circulates scraps in Guangzhou. Amid a broad ecological crisis, China has focused on building green and sustainable cities, manifestations of a vision of urban modernity. Yet what counts as green or modern is articulated alongside and through an increasingly influential real-estate turn in urbanism, that drives the eviction of informal rural workers, deemed as backwards, dirty and a challenge to the green “order” of the modern city. The paper follows the daily routine of waste collectors and focuses on how efforts to realize green modernism have made labor infrastructural, not only as a system for the circulation of waste but as a strategy of navigating an increasingly splintered urban space. Faced with the demolition of their homes and increased policing of sidewalks and other public spaces, collectors create “alternative circuits,” spatio-temporal adaptive practices that facilitate the circulation of waste in the city.