UNM Anthropology Colloquia presents Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine


Start Date: Oct 07, 2022 - 03:00pm

Location: Mitchell Hall 102

On Friday, October 7 at 3 pm, Dr. Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins will present her talk Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine in Mitchell Hall 102 as part of the Fall 2022 Anthropology Colloquia Series.  The lecture is being co-sponsored by The Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies, UNM Geography (GES) and the UNM International Studies Institute (ISI).  


This talk offers an analysis unusual in the study of Palestine: it begins with the environmental, infrastructural, and aesthetic context in which Palestinians forge their lives. Anthropologist Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins offers the term "waste siege" to describe a series of conditions: from smelling wastes to negotiating military infrastructures, from biopolitical forms of colonial rule to experiences of governmental abandonment, from obvious targets of resistance to confusion over responsibility for the burdensome objects of daily life. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in the occupied West Bank, she traces Palestinians’ experiences of wastes to explore what their improvisations for mitigating their besiegedness by wastes can tell us about nonsovereign approaches to time and collectivity under specific material conditions. She highlights the stories of a landfill, a dumpsite, and unwanted bread, to argue that waste siege does not only describe a stateless Palestine; it also becomes a metaphor for our besieged planet.

Professor Stamatopoulou-Robbins is an anthropologist with research interests in infrastructure, waste, environment, platform capitalism, and the home. Her first book, Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2019), has won five major book awards and explores what happens when, as Palestinians are increasingly forced into proximity with their own wastes and with those of their occupiers, waste is transformed from “matter out of place,” per prevailing anthropological wisdom, into matter with no place to go—or its own ecology. Her current book, Controlled Alienation: Airbnb and the Future of Home (under contract with Duke University Press), explores the joint world-making of austerity and home-sharing in Greece. Other publications include pieces in Environment and PlanningInternational Journal of Middle East StudiesComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle EastArab Studies JournalThe Jerusalem QuarterlyAnthropology NewsThresholds, and The New Centennial Review. Her film Waste Underground (with videographer Ali al-Deek) premiered at the Sharjah Biennial in Ramallah in 2017. She serves on the editorial teams of Cultural Anthropology and MERIP. Her research has been awarded funding by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Wenner Gren Foundation, Columbia University, and the Palestinian American Research Council.