Thomas Hylland Eriksen – Waste is a Property of the Human Mind

While mindful of the severity of the many problems associated with waste, pollution and the resulting environmental degradation, Thomas Hylland Eriksen reflects on the deeper nature of waste: Why is it that we classify some things as valuable and others as rubbish?

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

Maria Åkerman, whose current work is centered around solving the practical dimensions of waste issues, lets herself to be somewhat provoked by prof. Eriksen’s lecture Waste is a property of the human mind. In her perceptive commentary she asks how the shifting categories of waste actually relate to and intertwine with the questions of social justice and identity politics in the context of the ongoing ecological crises.

About the speakers

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo, Norway) is a cultural anthropologist specialising in a wide range of issues such as identity politics, ethnicity, nationalism, globalisation, and sustainability. His current passion includes collecting unintentional consequences of modernity, such as new information technology, identity, affluence and waste. His impressive list of publications include two monographies discussing the role of waste in modern societies: Söppel. Afvall i en Verden Avbivirkningen (2012, Garbage. Waste in a World of Side Effects) and Overheating. An Anthropology of Accelerated Change (2016).

Doctor of Social Sciences Maria Åkerman

Dr.Sc. Maria Åkerman acts as a Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland where her focus area is sustainability of socio-technical changes. She has multidisciplinary social scientific background in environmental policy, science and technology studies and economics and her key research interests include grass roots innovations in socio-technical transformations, sustainability governance and politics of environmental knowledge production. Working at the interface and across various disciplines, she has also been interested in methodologies of interdisciplinary research and collaborative and actionable knowledge production. Her current research projects focus particularly on circular economy transition and citizen-driven sustainability innovations.