New book – Discard Studies: Wasting, Systems, and Power

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Max Liboiron and Josh Lepawsky. Discard Studies: Wasting, Systems, and Power. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2022.


Discard studies is a young interdisciplinary field of research. In Discard Studies: Wasting, Systems, and Power, we make the case that thinking about discards is a way to understand systems. Although we certainly cover ‘waste’ in the conventional sense of curbside pickup, trash cans, recycling bins and the systems that manage them, we make the case that discard studies are broader than these examples. We argue that all systems—to be what they are and to be ordered as they are—must get rid of people, places and things that pose threats to the ordering those systems maintain. Who, what, when, and where gets devalued, erased, and thus discarded are all questions of struggles pertaining to power. In our view, discard studies offers a set of concepts to analyze systems and their power relations and also offers some orientations for affecting change to those systems.

We’ve tried to write the book with multiple audiences in mind, from fellow discard studies researchers, to activists concerned about issues of waste of various kinds, to undergraduate and graduate students who may be new to the field. One concrete way to achieve these multiple conversations is to offer the book Open Access. Each chapter is available free of charge as a PDF download from MIT Press. We hope that this makes the text more accessible and especially useful for teaching.


Feature image: Alexandrov, Oleg. 2019. Garbage Disposal Top View.

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Max Liboiron and Josh Lepawsky

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