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Zhang, Amy Qiubei

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Yale U.
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
April 17, 2012
Project Title: 
Zhang, Amy Qiubei, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Recycled Cities: Remaking Waste in Post-reform Urban China,' supervised by Dr. Helen F. Siu

Preliminary abstract: China's post-reform cities have transformed from centers of production to centers of consumption, and large urban centers like Guangzhou and Beijing currently face a mounting waste crisis as official treatment facilities near capacity. This project follows the circulation of waste objects as they move through official schemes of Waste-to-Energy (WTE incineration), formal recycling programs, protests, and informal scavenging practices and uncovers the entangled values, aspirations, and desires of three groups of actors in their divergent but intersecting attempts to transform waste into something of value in urban China. By examining the debate over how waste is handled by waste experts, waste activists, and the resourcefulness of informal scavengers in their efforts to manage waste, this project addresses what state technological projects, grassroots environmental initiatives, and everyday survival practices suggest about how the urban environment is being remade in contemporary China and in the rapidly developing cities of the global south. This project will inquire into the following three questions: (1) What are the diverse forms of material engagements, meanings, and values (for livelihood and the environment) implicit in various strategies of waste management? (2) How do state-driven waste management schemes, such as WTE incineration and the formalization of recycling, draw on scientific knowledge to win public support, and how do alternative ways of knowing waste challenge these claims? (3) What can the interactions between waste experts, activists, and informal scavengers tell us about governance, ingenuity, and contestation in the re- making of China's urban environment?