The College of Arts and Science will host “The Wonder of Waste: Urban Legacies of Collective Forgetfulness,” a Bentson Dean’s Lecture by NYU anthropologist Robin Nagle, on Wed., Nov. 18.

Trash bags line a city street
(c)iStock/donvictorio

New York University’s College of Arts and Science will host “The Wonder of Waste: Urban Legacies of Collective Forgetfulness,” a Bentson Dean’s Lecture by NYU anthropologist Robin Nagle, on Wed., Nov. 18, 5:30-7 p.m. in NYU’s Jurow Lecture Hall, Silver Center for Arts and Science, 100 Washington Square East (enter at 32 Waverly Place or 31 Washington Place [wheelchair accessible]).

 

If collective memory requires collective neglect and even forgetfulness, what happens when the intentionally forgotten is recollected? More specifically, if infrastructures, labors, and materialities of waste were recognized for their fundamental importance to our everyday lives, how might our understandings of the world shift?

 

Nagle, author Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, will consider these and other questions in her presentation.

 

In the 2013 book, she notes that, from a city that generates 13,000 tons of household garbage and recyclables daily, New York’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) employees “receive scant notice and even less praise.”

 

Picking Up recounts New York’s epic 400-year battle with trash and considers the role the department has played in the city’s politics, stretching as far back as 1888 and up to the December 2010 snowstorm. In conducting research for the book, Nagle became a sanitation worker. She hefted trash, plowed snow, and operated a mechanical broom. These experiences gave her an insider’s view of the department’s daily workings—from its operational procedures to the different facets of the department’s culture to what it’s like to drive a 35-ton truck through the city’s crowded streets.

 

Nagle is director of NYU’s Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program, associate clinical professor of anthropology and environmental studies, and Faculty Fellow in Residence at NYU’s Third North Residence Hall. She is also anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation.

 

The event is free and open to the public. Call 212.998.8154 or email ken.kidd@nyu.edu for more information. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. Subway Lines: 6 (Astor Place); N, R (8th Street); A, B, C, D, E, F, M (West 4th Street).

 

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