From Gypsy Work to EU Recycling: Waste, Race, and Environment in Bulgaria

Elana Resnick, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Weatherhead Resident Scholar, SAR

Colloquium, SAR Boardroom

Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

Understanding how waste is produced, collected, stored, circulated, transformed, destroyed, and defined can tell us much about the organization of social life. This becomes clear when observing the Roma (Gypsy) minority in Bulgaria, who comprise about 10 percent of the total population. The Roma are disproportionately involved in trash collection and resale on a Europe-wide level. Though often considered “discard-able” by their home countries, they acquire prominence in EU migration/deportation cycles. Within countries like Bulgaria, many non-Roma understand the place of Romani people through relationships to trash, as witnessed by the stigmatization of Roma as social “waste”. In this talk, Resnick explores metaphors of “trash” in conjunction with an examination of actual material waste management—the job sector in which Roma are most visible—in order to better understand racial categorization and hierarchical social structures in Bulgaria and Europe historically and today.
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