Edda Cecilia Orlandi

Beyond dirt: an ethnographic study on the classification of waste in a co-cop hypermarket

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Waste; Rubbish; Value; Consumption; Hypermarket.

This paper, based on an ethnographic study, analyses the categories of rubbish as they are created in practice in a hypermarket in Milan. The aim is to describe waste as a cultural process and to address the issue of the creation and destruction of value. An analysis of the way in which the value of the commodities discarded from the hypermarket is economically constructed in terms of their place in the budget of the hypermarket and in its storehouse is provided in order to make sense of this process. Mary Douglas's description of dirt as a «mess» that needs to be put in place is used as a starting point in order to argue that the classification of waste in the hypermarket and in society as a whole is essentially spatial and static. This does not allow to appreciate the dynamic and multiple trajectories of commodities and leads to a paradoxical destruction of their value as consumer goods even when this value is meant to be extended through recycling and gift giving. A charitable project aimed at giving the discarded food of the hypermarket to social cooperatives is discussed as a crucial example of this process.

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