We are anthropologists interested in waste. We see great potential in studies of waste to elucidate various relations between humans and non-humans. 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 waste to conceal things that should not bee seen or signal to others ideologies built upon the ideas of reuse and sustainability. But humans are not the only creautres who produce waste in ontological sense. As Josh Reno suggests, animals can take advantage of the iconic and indexical logic to give meaning to scat as a semi-biotic matter.
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 waste, 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. Waste became more than just a passive entity into which human action gets inscribed. It posses the potential to affect humans and 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 qualitative and quantitative analyses of garbage and ethnography to triangulate our findings. Also, we experiment with technlogies such as digitization of textual, visual, and audio data in the field using tablet computers and relational databases and software for qualitative data analysis. We hope to share our experience and learn from other scholars in anthropology and beoynd.