Rosalind Fredericks

Dec 4, 2019

Garbage Citizenship

Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal

Duke University Press 2018

purchase at They were throwing garbage in the streets. Rosalind Fredericks makes sense of the garbage-scape of Dakar, Senegal in the wake of the 2007 trash “revolts” against the city and country’s uneven and failing garbage infrastructure—and puts into readers’ senses the smelly, sticky, full-sensory politics of waste management in the Global South. Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press, 2018) brings together studies of infrastructure with scholarship on labor to make a case for understanding, not infrastructure and labor, but laboring bodies as infrastructure. The book breaths fresh life into the moribund concept of neoliberalism to show how civic care, like household care, fell unevenly in Dakar on the bodies of women, youths, and economically precarious workers. Their bodies carried the scars, as well as the stigma, of governments’ piecemeal moves over three decades to keep the labor force that was managing waste both flexible and disposable—at times devolving responsibility onto individuals and informal sectors in the name of modernity, community, and Islamic piety. Garbage Citizenship is based on Fredericks’ political ethnography of Senegal and the book includes vivid, beautiful photos of people, machines, and garbage laboring together—and, at times, collaborating in their refusal to be governed. (Just check out the cover image!) With workers always in mind, Fredericks makes space for hope, tells us where she is working now, and, in this generous interview, suggests how we can give breathing room to social justice, too. Fredericks is Associate Professor of Geography and Development Studies at New York University. The interview was conducted collaboratively by Laura Stark and students in her Vanderbilt seminar, History of Global Health: Emma Dahill, Savannah Larkin, Andrew Medland, Hailey Silver, Jesse Pullen, Gavin Yuan and Claudia Vial. For ideas and resources on how to include the New Books Network in your classroom, feel free to email Laura Stark at or see Stark’s essay “Can New Media Save the Book?” in Contexts (2015).

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Laura Stark is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society.

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