The World Besieged by Waste: On Garbage, Recycling, and Sublimation
This chapter examines several recent works, both fictional and non-fictional, that foreground issues of recycling and waste disposal in contemporary China—particularly in relation to the migrant labourers who frequently live near or even in China’s open-air waste dumps. The focus is on how these representations of municipal waste, which is invariably figured as an object of disgust and revulsion, are interwoven with themes of beauty and desire. The chapter suggests that a dialectics of refuse as both garbage and recyclables offers a way of approaching both the environment as such and the Anthropocene—the latter being understood as an environment that has been nearly irreversibly transformed by human activity.
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