Elana Resnick

Junior Core Fellow
Period of Stay: 
October 2023 - June 2024
University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Project Title: 
Refusing Sustainability: Waste and Race at the Edges of Europe
Project Abstract: 

Environmental sustainability has become a touchstone for development worldwide as an ideological antidote to capitalism’s excess: waste. This project, however, presents a fundamentally different account of both environmental sustainability and waste itself. It asks: how do programs for waste management become racial projects? In Bulgaria, Romani waste workers are figured as disposable even though their labor ensures that the country meets its international environmental sustainability targets. I argue that the logics of racialized disposability—the positioning of marginalized communities as expendable, excess, or waste—sustain so-called progressive environmentalism. Though firmly positioned in landscapes of environmental racism and forced to endure the conditions of body-breaking labor, Romani women waste workers generate joyous life through the disruptive power of intimacy and friendship. In doing so, they retain the humanity that the system denies them and affirm the emancipatory potential of their collective acts of refusal.