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Lecture, Lecture series

(Un)Knowing Toxicity: Waste, Value, and Indeterminacy in Beirut’s Coastal Landfills

Lecture by Hanna Baumann (UCL)

Since the Lebanese civil war, and even more so since the country’s waste crisis that came to a head in 2015, Beirut’s coastline has become a dumping ground for unremediated waste. Alongside wartime rubble, this rubbish is used for “land reclamation” purposes, with the new urban landmass gained from coastal landfills planned for parks as well as lucrative sea-front real estate. The almost alchemic transformation – from destruction and discard to vitality and value – this promise raises the indeterminacy of toxic waste as a question. To examine the epistemological and representational challenges of waste, the talk engages with the work of a number of Lebanese artists who have produced work on waste along Beirut’s waterfront in recent years. I argue that the works discussed engage reflexively with the challenges of knowing and showing toxicity. They draw our attention to the material instability and transmutability of toxic waste, the interdependency of the relations it is engaged in, as well as the political possibilities its ambivalence may open up. I suggest that thinking waste and toxicity through these frames allows us to view processes of urban renewal and “revitalisation” in new ways.

Hanna Baumann is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London. Her work is located at the intersection between urban and migration studies and she frequently employs creative and participatory methods. Her current research examines the role of infrastructures in processes of urban exclusion and participation of non-citizens.

The event will be held online. Please register here to participate via Zoom.


This event is part of the lecture series:
ZMO Colloquium Winter Semester 2022/2023
Environmental (Un)Knowing: Exploring the nexus of epistemic and environmental injustice