Reshuffling Responsibility: Waste, Environmental Justice and Urban Citizenship in Cambodia
- Kathrin EitelEmail Kathrin Eitel
‘Responsibility’ is the new buzzword in environmentalism and climate change discourse. Regarding the waste ‘crisis’ in particular, responsibility is understood as pertaining to individual actors, thus undermining the prevailing perception of an interconnected world. This article argues for a processual perspective on responsibility as entangled conditioning of life, which has the potential to embrace more-thanhuman politics of responsibility, that is crucial to facilitate an environmentally just transition ‘from the margins’. Exploring three sites of waste responsibility—in the form of responsibility politics, in the public sphere, and on haphazard city wastelands—the article examines different waste relationships that provoke multiple forms and notions of responsibility that respond to Cambodia’s recalcitrant and seemingly unmanageable waste situation. The revelation of responsibility as a processual and temporally diverse phenomenon permits the emergence of new forms of responsibility that contest the predominant notion of ‘waste responsibility’, which forms the basis of numerous waste reduction models worldwide. The local implementation of such programs universalizes and standardizes waste responsibilities as they are implemented in alignment with long-established ways of doing politics and waste fantasies. However, local waste pickers have already assumed a significant proportion of the responsibility for waste. By collecting and reselling waste on a daily basis, they enable a sovereignty-through-waste, which reclaims urban citizenship and promotes an environmentally just transition that resonates with the relationships waste undergoes in unruly sites, hinting at possible future politics.
- Submitted on 21 Mar 2021
- Accepted on 11 Aug 2022
- Published on 23 Nov 2022
- Peer Reviewed