About Us

We are social scientists interested in the relationship between humans and their waste. We see great potential in studies of various kinds of waste in its social context to elucidate who we - humans - really are. Humans produce waste through their action. In doing so, they follow unconscious patterns of thinking and doing embedded in habitual practices. They can also improvize and intentionally shape their practices related to rubbish to conceal things that should not bee seen or signal to others ideologies built upon the ideas of reuse and sustainability.

Things that were thrown away can shed light on everyday life, perceptions of dirt, economic strategies, institutionalized forms of action, and hidden realities both in the present and the past. Since humans always produce material waste and this waste is almost ubiquitous, it provides a wonderful arena for the comparative study of human societies. Because of materiality of rubbish, its study was associated frequently with archaeologists who posessed methodological tools to examine its variability and infer human behavior. The end of the 20st century, however, showed that waste became not only source of information about human behavior but also meaningful action, agency, global condition, materiality, or ‘life of things’ themselves. Rubbish became more than just a passive entity into which human action gets inscribed. It posses the potential to affect humans and other (non)humans. While some archaeologists have been moving away from artifacts or things to texts, social geographers and anthropologists have been moving in the opposite direction discovering the potential of materiality and things for understanding humans and emerging forms of life, sociality, and humanity. We feel that contemporary situation calls for an open-minded environment and engagement of scholars from different disciplines to understand the relationship between humans and waste.

In addition to the enrichment of theoretical perspectives on waste, we attempt to develop efficient and reliable methodological tools for data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Therefore, we attempt to apply various approaches including detailed quantitative and qualitative analyses of garbage, ethnography, questionaire surveys, and spatial analyses to triangulate our findings. Also, we experiment with technological innovations such as direct digitization of textual, visual, and audio data in the field using tablet computers and relational databases, software for qualitative data analysis, and geographic information systems for spatial analysis. We hope to share our experience and learn from other scholars in social sciences and beoynd.

History of Project

Our project started in 2012 as a research of consumption patterns in contemporary Czech society. During the first season we analysed garbage from two contrasting parts of Pilsen (city in West Bohemia) and polished our methodology based on traditional garbological analysis à la William Rathje. In 2013 we extended our focus on rural environment and processed garbage from a small village in West Bohemia. In addition, we analyse spatial patterns of consumption and use ethnographic methods. Part of the project is conducted within the frame of Lenka Brunclíková's dissertation. The project received funding from various sources including Grant Agency of the University of West Bohemia (SGS-2012-061, SGS-2013-070), Czech Science Foundation (14-03314S), and Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic (Project NOTES, CZ 1.07/2.3.00/20.0135).