Refuse, Resist, Recycle
Frederick Luis Aldama and Robert Soza
Issue #55, May 2001
There's a lot more to garbage than twist-tying a Hefty and setting it out on the curb. The shit we put out isn't de facto valueless; nor is that considered valuable actually of material value. In the politics of everyday life, garbage is swept up into a production/consumption maelstrom where supply-and-demand economics willy-nilly accord value and/or non-value to objects. To guarantee profit margins for the few, shit is turned into gold and the working class into shit. Garbage, then, lies at center of a system that maintains hierarchies of difference (the Haves who consume and produce waste vs. the Have Nots) as a material consequence of production/consumption as well as a metaphor for understanding power relations today. In this issue of Bad Subjects we open the proverbial can to a variety of voices that form a complex critique of today's production/consumption system as it grinds up and spits out disposable bodies of knowledge and people in the realms of politics, economics, education, and culture.
In all the essays included, garbage becomes the site for a materialist and/or metaphoric critique of late-capitalism. When capitalism is on the prowl to trash anything deemed valueless we must be on the alert. Authors Octavia Davis and Rosemary Polanco turn their sights to education and spirituality. Davis's essay concerns public school curriculums where, say, foreign languages are slung into the dumpster to make room for courses with greater economic utility; Polanco looks at how U.S. capitalist fantasies infect Dominican cultural sensibilities, turning age-old traditions like santeria into porqueria. What happens to the shit we flush and the bags of offal we curbside? Robin Nagle details the plight of New York's "san men" (sanitation workers) who make shit melt into thin air. The same san men who, because the system can't reveal the process of making shit disappear, become viciously scapegoated by city officials and the media. Other writers get messy when they stick their hands into topics like the body (diseased and dead) as it exists within a market economy: Robert Mitchell dissects the market value of post-op body parts; Mike Mosher comments on the Sex Pistols' rant about the politics of abortion; and Rashad Shabazz exposes the raced politics of weight loss and exercise. Hayden White and Tomas Almaguer use garbage as a concept to talk about Marxism, the left, and its value in the ivory tower, offering divergent points of view regarding the left's ability to critically engage race. Frederick Aldama looks directly at the material consequences of a production/consumption system that transforms racialized working-class bodies into disposable objects. He also chats with his friend JDot about trash and everyday life. Robert Soza reads the Americas as a site of hypocrisy, where depending on one's race and class, historical atrocities and current social injustices may or may not reach the ear of the public and garner sympathy. Darren Ranco explains how the power of corporate capital influences the supposedly objective science behind environmental studies to the detrement of the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine. Kira Stevens theorizes garbage as a concept that replaces dusty oppositions like high vs. low brow/ self vs. other to form a more pertinent and complex critique of age-old metaphysics and aesthetics. Continuing in the trash aesthetics vein, Tomas Kitlinski and Joe Lockard examine the role of dreck in Polish literature and film. Finally, we include the poetry of Micheal Tata and Nathan Pritts as well as the fiction of Eric Hicks to trash Bad Subjects' readerly expectations.
Get dirty and enjoy.