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Unmaking Waste

New Histories of Old Things

Unmaking Waste

New Histories of Old Things

Explores the concept of waste from fresh historical, cultural, and geographical perspectives.
Garbage is often assumed to be an inevitable part and problem of human existence. But when did people actually come to think of things as trash, as becoming worthless over time or through use, as having an end?
Unmaking Waste tackles these questions through a long-term, cross-cultural approach. Using archaeological finds, historic documents, and ethnographic observations to examine Europe, the United States, and Central America from prehistory to the present, Sarah Newman traces how different ideas about waste took shape in different times and places. Newman examines what is considered waste and how people interact with it, as well as what happens when different perceptions of trash come into contact and conflict. Understandings of waste have shaped forms of reuse and renewal in ancient Mesoamerica, early modern ideas of civility and forced religious conversion in New Spain, and even the modern discipline of archaeology. Newman argues that centuries of assumptions imposed on other places, times, and peoples need to be rethought. The result is not only a broad reconsideration of waste but also new forms of archaeology that do not take garbage for granted. Unmaking Waste reveals that waste is not—and never has been—an obvious or universal concept.

224 pages | 30 color plates, 18 halftones, 1 line drawings | 6 x 9

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Latin American Studies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: A Fortress of Indestructible Leftovers
1. Throwaway Living
2. Archaeologies of Garbage
3. Cleanliness and Godliness
4. Dirty Work
5. Things Left Behind
6. Anamorphic Archaeology
Conclusion: A Weakness in Our Imaginations?

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