Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


CIES-ISCTE, Portugal

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs238

Waste is a fundamental concept in understanding the variety of patterns in person–thing relations and the transformation of an object's value. Waste is a ubiquitous product of major human activities and also a part of human moral economy (Scanlan 2005) that has tended to stigmatize people related to waste management (cleaning, scavenging, recycling, dumpster diving).

Until the 1970s, the general tendency in social sciences was to focus on the production and the circulation of objects inside the life of consumers, neglecting the potentiality that things have to reveal the social and cultural bases that are established and renewed through consumption practices. Parallel to this, the social life of things and their value has been considered more important than the social death of things (Reno 2009). This created a vacuum in knowledge of what happens with things after they are thrown away and become waste. Consumption studies and material culture studies have failed to investigate the end product of the process of consumption – waste, and despite following analytically the life and destination of objects, they did not offer insights into the final resting place of waste.

Anthropologists provided important foundations for the study of relationships between waste and culture. Mary Douglas (1981) explored the issues related to what is considered clean and unclean ...

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