- Book title
- A companion to urban anthropology
- Pages (from-to)
- Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
- The Blackwell companions to anthropology
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This essay points to the role of pollution in understanding the social construction of hierarchies and urban space. Conceptualizations of pollution and approaches to waste management always reflect the Zeitgeist and tend to be politically charged. We argue that an ethnographic approach to pollution can serve as a lens through which to dissect the social and cultural intricacies of the urban environment, space, power, and capital. We need to consider both the material and symbolic dimensions of "dirt," as these reflect worldviews, dominant values, and aesthetics. Drawing on two case studies, the first on slum tourism in Mazatlán, Mexico, and the second on mainstream environmentalism in Kingston, Jamaica, this essay examines the ways in which urban pollution plays out at the local level. We show that in each case, urban pollution both reproduces and alters unequal social relations that are inscribed in the city's spatial matrix. In discussing the controversies and injustices that emerge, we also highlight the permeable nature of garbage, shaped as it is by normative and discursive regimes.
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