The History of Garbage in New York City
Across millennia and around the world, ashes, rubbish, and other troublesome byproducts of urban life have transformed water into solid ground, expanded shorelines, and leveled hollows. The result is a conglomeration of political, geographic, material, and cultural histories that shape our everyday experience of a metropolis—but remain almost completely unknown. This master class explores the afterlife of trash in New York City and reveals invisible geographies of urban heritage. How have complex interactions of political power, infrastructure technologies, and unseen labor become physically manifest in the Big Apple? How does cast-off debris become treasured artifact? How might these perspectives change our perceptions of Gotham in particular and city life in general?
Robin Nagle is anthropologist-in-residence for the New York City Department of Sanitation and a clinical professor of environmental studies and anthropology at New York University. Her most recent book, Picking Up, asks what it takes to be a sanitation worker in New York and why anyone should care.