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The Underworlds Series: Waste as Site of Global Dis/Ordering

March 27, 2024 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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As part of the Underworlds series, the event focuses on waste as a site of global dis/ordering.

Rather than concentrating only on how waste is defined or regulated in (international) law, the event foregrounds the material patterns of dis/ordering that thinking through waste can reveal and generate. This entails an attentiveness to the ethical positions, material practices, and shifting legal geographies that help us navigate the world from the vantage point of its wastelands. How can we trace the arteries of power and modes of production that constitute the Molysmocene – the ‘geological era shaped by human waste and its management’? Which historical legacies, worldviews and material entanglements have shaped this saturation and contamination with waste? Which avenues for action are available in such political landscapes of plasticity and pollution?

The Speakers

Heather Davis is an Assistant Professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York whose work draws on feminist and queer theory to examine ecology, materiality, and contemporary art in the context of settler colonialism. Her most recent book, Plastic Matter (Duke University Press, 2022) explores the transformation of geology, media, and bodies in light of plastic’s saturation.

Michael Hennessy Picard teaches Waste Law at the University of Edinburgh School of Law. His research focuses on the transnational regulation of global waste objects, from the recycling of shipwrecks to the (mis)management of outer space debris.

Event Resources

The Series: Underworlds – Sites and Struggles of Global Dis/Ordering

Engagement with practices of global ordering is often guided towards specific locations and legacies: the sovereign state, the formal sources and standards of international law, the intricacies of global diplomacy, the historical juncture and its (anti-)heroes, the international palaces of hope in Geneva, New York, or The Hague. These explorations entail ideas of where power resides and where it is to be unmasked or undone – ideas implicitly grounded in modernist geographies, temporalities, and subjectivities. Starting from the limits of these familiar perspectives, this lecture and workshop series traces the multiple ways in which these sites, actors, and events are cabined, crossed, and cut apart by alternative material arteries, lineages, and languages of global dis/ordering.

The series takes as starting point that authority and order are not fixed properties of specific actors or institutions, but the result of ongoing material processes of ordering and world-making. As such, it traces unconventional forms and sites of global dis/ordering – from raw materials to projections of hope – as material, infrastructural, and discursive compositions that shape patterns of power. The encounter between old- and new materialist, Marxist and decolonial methodologies and modes of critique is one of the key objectives of this series. Its aim, however, is not only methodological: it aspires to inspire new ethical and political openings that attend to our inevitable complicity in taking part in these processes, and reveal new modes of resistance and refusal, of struggle and sociality. These interventions are not narrowly targeted at the old nemeses of critique – the state, the truth, the universal – but work from within both entrenched and emergent material sites and practices of dis/ordering: oceans, oil / coal, breath, debt, commons, frontier(s), waste, hope, wild / feral, vessels.

Programme (all events take place online at 14.00 BST)

Oceans (with Renisa Mawani and Surabhi Ranganathan) – 11 October 2023

Oil / Coal (with Lys Kulamadayil and On Barak) – 25 October 2023

Breath (with Daniela Gandorfer and Jean-Thomas Tremblay) – 22 November 2023

Debt (with Vasuki Nesiah and Kojo Koram) – 13 December 2023

Commons (with Isabel Feichtner and Elsa Noterman) – 24 January 2024

Frontier(s) (with Christine Schwöbel-Patel and Cait Storr) – 28 February 2024

Waste (with Heather Davis and Michael Hennessy Picard) – 27 March 2024

Hope (with Claire Colebrook and David Chandler) – 24 April 2024

Wild / Feral (with Irus Braverman and Floris De Witte) – 29 May 2024

Vessels (with Rinaldo Walcott and Itamar Mann) – 19 June 2024

The series is convened by Marie Petersmann and Dimitri Van Den Meerssche and co-organised by QMUL (the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context) and the LSE Law School.


March 27, 2024
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:


Law Events


Online event