Gay Hawkins – Waste as a Political Material

The talk by Gay Hawkins explores the idea of waste as a ‘political material’. Rather than simply see waste as a political or environmental problem that needs human regulation – the aim is to investigate how waste becomes implicated in shaping political processes as both a problem and a participant.

Summary of the lecture in a text form can be found here.

Karoliina Lummaa’s inspiring commentary has been recorded in a once abandoned shipping container, located in the industrial outskirts of a small town in Southern Finland. But as Lummaa points out, the container has gotten a new life: one that is given by the young people who use the container to express their thoughts, frustrations and yearning for freedom, in the form of graffiti. Lummaa’s commentary thus embodies prof. Hawkins’ work on ethical waste studies by now turning the shipping container into her office, and using it to record her thoughts of waste as a political material. 

About the speakers

Professor Gay Hawkins

The work of cultural theorist, professor Gay Hawkins (Western Sydney University, Australia) has had a huge impact on social scientific waste studies. Her mind-shifting book The Ethics of Waste: How We Relate to Rubbish (2005) examined the materiality of waste and the ways rubbish makes ethical claims on us. This seminal book, along with Hawkins’ more recent publications focusing on plastic waste, continues to have a major influence in waste studies. In her keynote she discusses the idea of waste as a ‘political material’.

Associate Professor Karoliina Lummaa

Karoliina Lummaa is associate professor and senior lecturer in Finnish literature at the University of Turku, Finland. She is currently affiliated with Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS) and BIOS Research Unit. Lummaa’s publications include two monographs on Finnish nature poetry and posthumanist theory, five co-edited anthologies on Finnish literature, multidisciplinary environmental research and posthumanism, and research articles on environmental humanities, with topics ranging from waste studies and human/animal studies to multidisciplinary Anthropocene research.