Calls for Papers, AAG 2017 Edition

The American Association of Geographers 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston is going to play host to a number of waste-oriented paper sessions. Two CFPs for this year:

Informality, legitimacy and authority in the age of the “Circular Economy”


Freyja Knapp, University of California, Berkeley

Manisha Anantharaman, St. Mary’s College of California

The circular economy is the “new kid on the block” in the arena of
technological and managerial responses to intensified waste production and
resource shortages. Circular economy strategists seek to apply technical and
design solutions to improve resource efficiency, reuse, and repurposing,
hoping for new waves of economic growth even in times of crisis. In parallel,
the urban infrastructure needed for circular resource flows is being remade
through processes of zoning and land use regulation in concert with waves of
gentrification and displacement. This session seeks to explore the
relationship between the growing activity and interest in the circular economy
(a subset of the “green” or sustainable economy) with contemporary urban
conflicts over so-called “nuisance” land uses, commodity property rights (e.g.
who owns curbside recyclables), race, and class. These conflicts recapitulate
familiar patterns of dispossession or appropriation, but with a green-economy
gloss that often masks socio-environmental injustices.  

Critical engagement with circular economy ideas and practice is of essence,
especially as the concept has recently gained prominence as a global
sustainability strategy attractive to policymakers and businesses. In this
eagerness to realize the “win-win” solutions that the circular economy
promises, the socio-spatial practices that comprise circularity occur in the
shadows of the excited claims of sustainable development and consumption,
eliding the politics of expertise and practice embedded in urban re-cycling

This panel seeks to add to the growing critical scholarship on the green
economy and invites researchers studying discards, recycling, repurposing and
allied processes from a critical perspective to explore the hidden effects of
the circular economy transition. We are particularly interested in scholarship
that seeks to trouble the North-South distinction in waste/discard studies.
Some themes that we seek to explore include, but are not limited to:

How is the circular economy conceptualized across different places?

What physical, policy, and labor infrastructures articulate with the circular
economy, and how are they changing?

How are waste gleaning/picking and recycling activities in the so-called
“informal sector” articulating with new urban structures under the banner of
circular economy?

What are parallels or contradictions between the unlicensed waste collection
economies in the global North and the global South?

What does sustainability and justice mean within a circular/green economy?

What spatial politics are at work with “cleaning and greening up” the city?

How are patterns of economic development and gentrification intersecting with
already-existing circularities?

How are notions of authority, expertise, or rights leveraged in contestations
over who may legitimately participate in the green economy, and how?

How can we rethink “informality” through the circular economy?

Abstracts (250 words) should be sent to Freyja Knapp and
Manisha Anantharaman by October 21. We will notify
accepted participants by October 24. The deadline to submit abstracts to the
AAG Annual Meeting is October 27.

Integrating waste systems: interrogating system boundaries and performance possibilities 


Lily Baum Pollans, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT
Jonathan Krones, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Waste is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. In addition to being composed of an uncountable variety of materials, waste is generated and managed by actors at many scales, across disparate geographies, and through numerous processes. As discard studies scholars (among others) have noted, wastes have typically been categorized and treated—studied, regulated, managed—as discrete streams. Liquid waste is different from solid waste; industrial waste is different from municipal waste; hazardous waste is different from non-hazardous waste. These classificatory schemes render certain wastes less visible than others, and in so doing, have perpetuated the idea that isolated efforts to reduce waste in at a single locus—the household, often—will solve a nebulous and generalized “waste problem” (Liboiron 2014; MacBride, 2012; Gille, 2007). At the same time, the heterogeneity of wastes has historically necessitated approaches to infrastructure, management, and conceptualization that target to specific properties of waste materials in order to successfully satisfy dominant societal objectives such as sanitation or cost effective containment. With the acknowledgement of climate change and the many other ecological and social impacts of our modern systems of production and consumption, we ask whether these traditional, tailored approaches to waste will be able to adapt to new, broader performance goals.
With this session, we seek to improve our understanding of the extent to which the dimensions we use to conceptualize and define our waste systems either enable or constrain different performance possibilities of those systems, especially in light of a societal push towards sustainability. We seek scholars who work on questions of waste at a variety of scales and across material types to submit papers that transgress traditional waste boundaries or challenge their efficacy.

Topics could include:

  •  geographic abstraction of waste generation vs. physical emplacement of waste disposal
  •  the fractionating of MSW / the emergence of organic waste as a distinct municipal waste management category
  •  transboundary movements of waste materials and the diffusion of responsibility
  •  the regulatory possibilities of reconceptualizing waste as the output of a socio-metabolic process
  •  the implications of the hazardous/non-hazardous waste dichotomy / how hazards in officially non-hazardous wastes contaminate the biosphere
  •  integrating waste throughout the life-cycle, e.g. food waste at the farm, processor, retailer, restaurant, and home
  •  history of waste classifications and divergence of the possibilities frontier

Submission procedure:

If you are interested in joining this paper session, please submit a 250-word abstract to Lily Baum Pollans ( and Jonathan Krones ( by Friday, October 20th. Please feel free to contact either of the session organizers about potential paper topics or with other questions concerning this call. We will get back to you before October 25th.  Please note that participants are also expected to register and submit their abstracts through the AAG website themselves by October 27th at latest.

More details about the AAG-meeting can be found here: