Ashwini Srinivasamohan , MESc

2013 TRI Fellow in India

The Social Lives of Waste in Chennai, India

From May to August 2013, I completed ethnographic fieldwork around the social lives of waste in Chennai, India. While I was specifically interested in the influence of middle class attitudes towards waste on the social and material flows of waste in the city, key informants also included local bureaucrats, waste management officials, and academics, as well as gatekeepers, informant waste workers, and conservancy workers. I kept a blog, Talking Trash--in Chennai, to document and analyze the fieldwork. Among the findings of the research was how the middle class use waste to assert a globalized notion of “middle classness,” simultaneously discounting Indian approaches to waste management while valorizing western perspectives, but also articulating moral superiority over other Indian classes and western countries through narratives of and actions around waste.