|dc.description.abstract||India has a long history of condemning Dalits and Bahujans and later Adivasis to waste-work. Intersections and overlays of caste, gender, historic exclusion, and policy neglect are mired in waste-work – work that is essential yet paradoxically invisible (Mander, 2006; Harriss-White, 2020). In recent times, especially since 2014 and the launch of the National Cleanliness Mission in India, policies have promised ‘improvements’ (Li, 2007). Interventions have attempted altering waste flows – modifying categories of waste materials and of legitimate spaces (e.g., claiming segregation of household waste materials and open-defecation free spaces); re-designing infrastructures (e.g., building toilets, encouraging door-to-door collection and remediating landfills); and re-ordering organisational forms of waste-work (e.g., introduction of ‘formalised’ self-help groups). We argue that the political-administrative processes of (in)visibilisation of waste materials, infrastructure and labour is intermingled with social hierarchies of caste and gender and has been highly ‘selective’.
The research is based on a review of policy documents and field work in a small urban local body in central India. Observations were conducted in spaces where waste resides - households, waste-centres, roadsides, landfills, processing centres and governing office spaces. We conducted interviews with a total of 197 participants that included workers (65), supervisory staff (32), government officials and consultants (40), residents (51) and voluntary social workers (9). First, we explore how waste materials, infrastructure and work are invisibilised by state and society through various governing mechanisms - categorisation, classification, relabelling, ignoring, erasures, and selective celebrations (Star, 1999; Larkin, 2013; Shaffer, 1985). Second, we take two policies allied to the National Cleanliness Mission to understand how policies employ these governing strategies in surveys under the National Cleanliness Survey and in informalisation of labour through organisational forms like self-help groups formed under National Urban Livelihood Mission.
Keeping concerns of those working with waste at the center, the research proposes an exploratory framework that seeks to understand (in)visibilisation as a differential and selective mobilisation of different senses – (un)smelt, (un)heard, (not)touched, (un)seen and the (un)known. The dissertation contributes to the small but growing academic literature of conceptualising ‘negatives’ (McConnell & Hart, 2019; Alexander & O’Hare, 2020) and the understanding of waste-work in small towns (Harriss-White, 2020; Cornea, Véron & Zimmer, 2017).||en_US