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Zero Waste as White Space: Racism and Racial Disavowal in an Environmentally “Sustainable” Europe

Tuesday, February 13, 2024, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

This talk weaves together problems of environmental sustainability and the politics of racial disavowal in Bulgaria. Resnick argues that environmental sustainability initiatives implemented across Europe have reproduced and generated new kinds of racialization. Although framed as progressive in the name of “greening” Europe, these initiatives often rely on unrecognized and racialized labor. In Bulgaria, where waste labor is performed predominantly by Romani women, waste management is critical to meeting European Union environmental sustainability targets. Waste and its labor thus serve as evidence of contemporary racialization within a landscape of racial disavowal, which can help us understand how racism takes shape even as it is systematically denied. 

Elana Resnick is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she leads the Infrastructural Inequalities Research Group. She studies waste, race, labor, nuclear energy, rivers, and humor using multi-modal research methods. Her work has been published in American Anthropologist, Collaborative Anthropologies, Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, Anthropology of East Europe Review, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures and Public Culture. She received the 2022 American Anthropological Association Annual Prize for Exemplary Cross-Field Scholarship and the 2023 Women’s Forum Article Prize of the British Association for Slavonic & East European Studies. Her book is under contract with Stanford University Press.

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