"The Limits of Resilience: Managing Waste in the Racialized Anthropocene." American Anthropologist 123 (2): 222-236. 2021.
Anthropological attention to more-than-human life has neglected the importance of race and racialization in human responses to environmental change. Instead of focusing on "resiliency" and environmental harms on a planetary scale, this article attends to the agentive and quotidian strategies of managing the capitalist accumulations with which racialized bodies are often in close proximity. It invokes the concept of the Racialized Anthropocene in order to destabilize the unmarked whiteness upon which the turn to humans-as-a-species—anthropos—is founded. This essay draws on three years of ethnographic fieldwork on institutionalized waste management and Romani waste laborers in urban Bulgaria. Multi-scalar forms of habituation are central to understanding both EU environmental policy and the strategies that Romani street sweepers use to manage both accumulated waste and the conditions of their racialized labor. I call these creative strategies anthropogenic management. Anthropogenic management bridges the Anthropocene, marked by increased waste accumulation at a planetary level of scale, with embodied waste labor through daily practices of "getting used to it."
"There is Nothing Revelatory About It: Racialized Labor in the Age of COVID-19." Exertions, Society for the Anthropology of Work. 2020.
While the virus has drastically diverging effects rooted in institutional racism, this fact is a "reveal" only for those who have, until now, had the privilege not to pay attention. As politicians worry about the economic costs of the coronavirus, they neglect the societal costs for those who are seen as internal others, the first to be outcast, bodies to be contained and not protected. This is not novel, revelatory, or a shifting of the status quo. And still it is important to document, as the pandemic shows yet again how anti-Roma racism continues to take on new forms.
- Media coverage: Interview with The Guardian May, 2020
"Durable Remains: Glass Reuse, Material Citizenship and Precarity in EU-era Bulgaria." Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 5 (1), 103-115. 2018.
Bulgarian Roma living in the capital city of Sofia rely on glass for EU-era survival because of its role in food-jarring practices and its ability to be repeatedly used and reused without breaking down. The durability of glass emerges as a salient material quality for ensuring a means of preservation in the face of everyday economic precarity. Glass's durability is material and temporal: temporal in that it transcends political and economic upheavals, and material in that, unlike plastic, metal and paper, glass does not naturally decompose over time. Instead, it enables structurally disadvantaged urbanites, like the Roma, to use homegrown food packaging technologies in order to survive in the era of EU "free"markets, plastic packaging and neoliberal discardability. The temporal and material durability of glass juxtaposes the precarious circumstances of those most engaged with its contemporary reuse for whom glass enables both survival and a form of EU-era material citizenship. However, EU regulations focused on recycling fail to acknowledge the widespread practice of glass reuse in Bulgaria. This paper analyzes how EU policy, recycling company officials and Romani and non-Romani Sofia residents reconfigured urability through different temporal materialities - and practices - of recycling and reuse.
"Protest and the Practice of Normal Life in Bulgaria." Lithuanian Ethnology: Studies in Social Anthropology and Ethnology (Lietuvos etnologija: socialinės antropologijos ir etnologijos studijos) 17 (26), 193-214. 2017.
Bulgaria’s 2013–2014 protests were rooted in an imagined ‘normal’ life that protesters turned into political action, what I call the politics of praxis. The politics of praxis refers to the practice of aspirational everyday life as a form of political engagement. Protesters craft the type of world they deem ‘normal’ by performing and practicing what they imagine an EU-era Bulgarian society should be. Everyday ‘normalcy’ is both (1) to what protesters aspire, and (2) the conditions of everyday protest life. It is only within the unordinary space of protest that utopian visions of EU-era ‘normal’ life can be realized.
"Discarded Europe: Money, Trash and the Possibilities of a New Temporality." Anthropological Journal of European Cultures 24 (1), 123-131. 2015.
How are time and materiality felt in periods of expectation, when change is awaited but never comes, at least not in the way anticipated? Disappointment may set in, but in the expanding European context in which I conducted research, something else occurs: sensory experiences of time and materiality intermingle and shape each other. These experiences of temporal-material relations, in a context of historical disorientation, are the basis of a new European temporality. My ethnographic research on waste management in Bulgaria, conducted between 2010 and 2013, with informal garbage collectors, city street sweepers, waste company officials, Sofia citizens, municipal representatives and ministry employees, provides the empirical foundation for this piece.
"The Unintentional Activist: Questions of Action, Activism, and Accountability." Collaborative Anthropologies 3 (1), 102-109. 2010.
I have never considered myself an activist. My problem with the term does not stem from debates about whether ethnography should be an activist endeavor but rather from the implication that ethnography could be anything else. If we think of an "activist" as someone who actively engages in the field, we must ask: What differentiates an activist anthropologist from an anthropologist who does not have activism as a central focus or goal? What are the limits and possibilities of action when it is conceived of in activist terms? Who or what has control over where action begins, ends, and takes shape? In this essay I explore what happens when our desires for—and understandings of—action do not coincide with those of our field consultants. By focusing on linguistic accountability as a realm of underexplored action in ethnographic contexts, I question how promises become constituted as actions and the effects this has on fieldwork relationships.
"Transnational Affiliations, Local Articulations: Consumption and Romani Publics in Bulgaria." Anthropology of East Europe Review 27 (2), 101-116. 2009.
Combating the entrenched position of Roma as Bulgaria‘s stigmatized underclass, Romani activists in Sofia seek to affiliate the Romani population with internationally recognized entities outside of the nation‘s borders: in particular, with the United States via African American movements (from the Civil Rights Movement of MLK to hip-hop), and with South Asia as an ostensible homeland for the European Romani diaspora. This paper examines how different transnational affiliations constitute—and are constituted by—the ways in which Romani activists align themselves in a global sphere, shifting affiliations among the Bulgarian state, the European Union, the United States, and India. By analyzing publics in terms of consumption, I examine how people forge affiliations vis-à-vis the consumption of certain "objects," including political models/concepts (e.g., American Civil Rights) and media forms (e.g., Indian films, hip-hop music).
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