ResiduaLab is a research laboratory dedicated to the sociocultural study of waste, encompassing its material, symbolic, environmental, and techno-political dimensions. We draw on qualitative and particularly on ethnographic perspectives in order to foster connections between anthropology and the humanities at large. ResiduaLab is located at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, but it brings together researchers from different institutions and career stages in order to develop projects aimed at exploring the multiple aspects and dimensions involved in the generation of waste in urban and industrial settings.
Through different regimes of visibility and under the logic of concealment, waste makes up material and symbolic networks. It articulates a range of relationships and scales that comprise urban infrastructures, government institutions and corporate strategies, shaping various modes of life-making in urban spaces. These practices create opportunities and deepen inequalities, constitute political dynamics defining borders and belongings, control access to goods, resources, and rights, shaping the city as an environment to be inhabited by a diversity of human and non-human beings.
From our perspective, waste takes on a powerful conceptual dimension from its broader meaning that ranges from the materiality of objects and substances to the residual as modes of existence. Hence, waste provides a key analytical framework that fosters ways of understanding social phenomena and urban dynamics, by articulating the economic, political and environmental dimensions that constitute contemporary territories, communities, identities, and subjectivities.
The laboratory’s academic production is based on three thematic strands:
This strand encompasses reflections on the production of cities, government technopolitics, urban infrastructure and ruins, as well as spatialities, materialities. It also includes social and symbolic practices of life-making in the urban environment from its margins, encompassing worlds of labor and popular economies, informalities and illegalisms, as well as counter-hegemonic and/or decolonial knowledge and ways of life.
This is focused on the analysis of issues that relate to the environment, climate change and the Anthropocene, such as public policies and daily politics and practices of water and waste management, risk, public controversies, and the effects of development projects and industrial activities, such as pollution and toxic contamination. It also covers popular movements and political processes of resistance in view of corporate practices that affect the environment, shaping phenomena of environmental injustice and racism.
This strand seeks to explore multiple languages, media and technical means that frame and reflect upon residual phenomena, excluded from the field of vision, which are situated in the foreground or under different regimes of (in)visibility. Aesthetics, visual art, performance, and audio-visual arts take on a methodological and epistemological dimension, as a way of thematizing and building knowledge through the sphere of the sensitive, through the analysis and production of audiovisual, performance and ethnographic narratives of practices, ways of life, and residual worlds.
The content of the blog can be explored from three modes of action, pertaining to residues and their modes of entering the world. The modes of action configure metaphors that also operate as analytical principles:
refers to the processes of re-signification, recuperation of meanings, rescue of values, assuming new semiotic relations, conceptual (re)configurations (symbolic metaphor).
refers to the contact, the mixture that comes from encounters, the crossing of borders, and the exploration of the stable boundaries of things, which carry the capacity for destabilization (material metaphor).
refers to the resilience, to what remains, to the capacity for permanence, and the forms of resistance before the ongoing process of elimination attempts (political metaphor).
ResiduaLab values and is open to collaborations with researchers and research groups from other universities, as well as social movements, civil society organizations, activists, and artists with interests and practices related to the theme of residues with a view to forming partnerships and activities.
The history of the laboratory goes back to 2015, with the creation of ResiduaLogics, a blog dedicated to disseminating diverse experiences of discoveries and alternative uses for everyday materialities, with the aim of thinking about the potentiality of waste in the creation of worlds and proposing interchanges about the values, meanings, and other lives of discarded things.