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Recycling Infrastructures

Waste Fantasies, Circularity and Urban Life in Phnom Penh

(2017 - 2021)

Being on the street in Phnom Penh

This project was part of my PhD research that was funded by the DAAD and the Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main and supported by the Heinrich-Boell Foundation in Phnom Penh.

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With the introduction as Open Access!

This research has examined the recycling infrastructure in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It considers the circular flows of waste and practices through ‘infracycles’, maintenance practices that tinker with the social and capitalist order, and postcolonial ways of doing politics that co-constitute predominant waste fantasies from which naturecultures ooze out, shaping urban life in their own way.

In this context, socially marginalized waste pickers contest the capitalist system by creating tropes about freedom, labor autonomy, and the will to survive. In this regard, they are also meddling about a new social order that represents the fine line Cambodia is sashaying between tradition and modernity. Waste fantasies that are a result of environmental problematizations, however, perpetuate postcolonial ways of doing politics by exuding notions of waste as detached from its sociocultural context. But ultimately, waste slips through the cracks of these dominant imaginaries and global waste reduction models enacting new versions of what waste and the city is, providing opportunities for another future waste policy.

Join us on our tour through the city!

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