The Afterlives of “Waste”: Notes from India for a Minor History of Capitalist Surplus

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Abstract:  We contend that “waste” is the political other of capitalist “value”, repeated with difference as part of capital's spatial histories of surplus accumulation. We trace its work on India through a series of historical cuts, and suggest that the travels and perils of waste give us a “minor” history of capitalist surplus—the things, places and lives that are cast outside the pale of “value” at particular moments as superfluity, excess, or detritus; only to return at times in unexpected ways. The neologism “eviscerating urbanism” becomes our diagnostic tool to investigate both urban transformations in metropolitan India and their associated architectures for managing bodies and spaces designated as “wasteful”. In sum, our essay reveals how “waste” begins as civil society's literal and figurative frontier only to become its internal and mobile limit in the contemporary era—a renewing source of jeopardy to urban life and economy, but also, in the banal violence and ironies of fin de millennium urbanism, a fiercely contested frontier of surplus value production.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and The Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA; 2: Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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