Containers and Waste: Ordering the Unruly?

Main researcher: Daniel Sosna, PhD.
Institute of Ethnology

Waste is a significant phenomenon today, with its own internal contradiction. On the one hand, it is pushed out as an unwanted part of reality not to provoke outrage. On the other hand, it is significantly present as an environmental threat, economic factor and media topic. Waste is a peculiar category that seems to be excluded from the order of things, but at the same time co-creates the classification logic that constitutes the order. Although waste is gradually becoming an important research topic, little attention has been paid to an essential tool that can tame waste: the container. It is an invention that accompanies humanity from the times of food preservation and transport in prehistory to the vision of the future settlement of other planets. Today’s world would be difficult to imagine without containers that allow goods to flow through the arteries of the global economy while facilitating the increasing mobility of waste.

The aim of the international workshop is to understand the role of waste containers in creating order and shaping society. The event will enable interdisciplinary discussion between researchers in anthropology, archeology, philosophy and sociology. The following questions provide a framework for the initial discussion: What role do baskets, containers, waste wagons or ferries play in facilitating, maintaining or curbing social transactions? How do containers work as space-time tools? What are the economic and political consequences of leaking container waste in the informal economy or political protest? Where are the limits of the container as a conceptual tool in relation to waste?