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Waste-Site Stories

The Recycling of Memory

Brian Neville, Johanne Villeneuve

Publication Year: 2002

Ours is a wasteful society, consumed with care for its remains, according to the contributors of Waste-Site Stories. Here scholars from around the world probe current notions of waste and the ways in which remains of different kinds recover value in the act of recollection and recycling. In the wake of destructive experiences that continue to trouble memory, there is something compelling about today’s theoretical and artistic interest in waste and recycling. The two terms provide a purchase on changing conditions of cultural memory, on technological development and its sometimes toxic ecological and social fallout, and on the legacy of personal and historical trauma. They suggest new resources for the stories of our engagement with the things of the past and the sites where traces of history survive.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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p. xi

The publication of this book concludes a long collaborative effort involving the editors, the authors, and many of their colleagues and friends. What started years ago as a conference in Montreal, developed in time into two quite independent publication projects under our care. The first of these, a book in French entitled La m

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Introdcution: In Lieu of Waste

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pp. 1-25

Ours is a wasteful society, consumed with cares for its remains. That waste matters today will not be surprising, especially in the wake of a century whose career of destruction has irreparably altered our relation to the things and events of the past. Whether it be the rapidly changing conditions of cultural memory, the sometimes toxic ecological and social fallout from technological development...

Part I: Waste

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1. Objects from the Past

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pp. 29-37

We are, collectively speaking, surrounded by “things,” many billions if not trillions of material objects of every kind. The number of these things is so great, in fact, that it is difficult to gain a conceptual hold on the almost infinite multiplicity of objects that constitute our world. One way to begin mentally ordering what we encounter, though, is to establish a rough taxonomy that distinguishes...

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2. Waste into Heritage: Remarks on Materials in the Arts, on Memories and the Museum

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pp. 39-54

Museums are the most prominent institutions that care for the material culture we consider heritage. We do not expect museums to exhibit or store waste. In this respect, our expectations are still more traditional than recent, avant-garde museological approaches to materials and memories. This chapter will present some of the many ways in which the arts, the museum, and collective memories...

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3. Art and Archive: The Dissimulation Museum

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pp. 55-70

The metaphors used to describe the museum often enough evoke the notion of memory: “reservoir of the past,” “mausoleum of culture,” “temple for the Muses, daughters of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory,” “cultural cemetery,” “burial chamber of the past”—to name just a few.1 But in most cases, such metaphors belong to a modernist culture that conferred upon the museum a relatively...

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4. Beyond the Archive

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pp. 71-83

Archives are repositories for things past that are deemed, however, worth preserving. As such, they have a reverse affinity with rubbish dumps, where things past are accumulated and left to decay.1 Archives and rubbish are not merely linked by figurative analogy but also by a common boundary, which can be transgressed by objects in both directions. Objects that are not confined to...

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5. The Acculturation of Waste

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pp. 85-105

As recent historical approaches to the qurestion have shown, the reality of waste is intrinsically tied to the very existence of human society throughout its history. But the novel development that interests us here is not the existence of waste per se but rather its accession to culture. So in what follows I too will speak of the “acculturation” of waste, all the while taking this term in its most literal...

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6. Agencies of Cultural Feedback: The Infrastructure of Memory

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pp. 107-120

We have to get used to the fact that the possibility of recycling now applies to everything—no longer annihilation, but recycling. All historical relics—empires, the Church, communism, democracy, ethnic identities, conflicts, ideologies— can be endlessly recycled. History has not only materially stepped out of cyclical time to enter the economic order of recycling (as in the recycling of industrial and nuclear waste), but the form of history itself—with its narratives implying...

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7. Being Authentic: The Ambition to Recycle

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pp. 121-130

What we call “authentic” presents itself as something primordial and elemental. “Primordial” in the sense of the German Ursprung,1 that is, as something that participates in (or is at least in touch with) an absolute beginning, “elemental” because what appears as belonging to an absolute beginning is expected to possess the powerful beauty of neatness and transparency, without lacking complexity...

Part II: Site

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8. Mould, Rubble, and the Validation of the Fragment in the Discourse of the Past

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pp. 133-142

All of you will know of the remarkable feat of engineering which, completed in the recent past, has succeeded in depriving Great Britain of its status as an island. I refer of course to the Channel Tunnel. Imagine the situation down there under the Channel when the two vast subterranean holes, one commenced from the French side and the other from a valley beneath the Downs, behind...

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9. Parthenon, Nashville: From the Site of History to the Sight of Memory

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pp. 143-151

What does it mean to possess a Parthenon at home, when one is not an Athenian? Not a small reproduction, mind you, but the re-creation of a full-scale Parthenon. Such is the experience of any Nashville citizen. But what kind of experience is it to behold a modern Parthenon amidst the green spaces of Nashville Centennial Park—a nice place, indeed, for a Sunday stroll?...

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10. Taking Lanterns for Bladders: Symbolic and Material Appropriation in the Postmodern

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pp. 153-163

A few years ago, I was in Montreal, where I had been invited to present a version of this chapter as a keynote address for a conference originally entitled M

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11. History’s Mortal Remains

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pp. 165-176

“Why was it necessary for those who have died to die? Why is it necessary to kill and to die?”1 These questions were raised by the Subcomandamente Marcos at the outset of negotiations between the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) and the Mexican federal government, which officially started on February 21, 1994. Although Marcos is referring to the specific necessity of resorting...

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12. Photo-Resemblance

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pp. 177-191

There is no photography, actually, but portrait.1 Whoever grabs a camera gets ready to portray. Widespread perversion: the photographer is recognizable (“identifiable”) in the picture he or she takes. This resemblance is an image, with a supposed referent. It also is an act, which is to say a take, a casting and retrieval, just as the fisherman casts the bait with a quick flick of the wrist and...

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13. Utopian Legacies Memory, Mediation, Cinema

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pp. 193-211

Roland Barthes stressed the extent to which “reading” a photograph “is implicitly, in a repressed manner, a contract with what ceased to exist, a contract with death.”1 Ever since the emergence of a culture of moving images with the invention of the film projector, the question is whether life has sealed this “contract with death” drawn up by photography. The flow of life seems to loom from...

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14. sCrypt Memory Building

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pp. 213-244

sCrypt fixates on and embodies the interminable fabrications—memory buildings—of an archival corpus. Initialized in 1989 on the Wallace Memorial Library construction site at the Rochester Institute of Technology,9 scrypt proliferates as a viral archive through auditoria, books, bricks, computer bits, continents, individuals, installations, museums, notepads, paint flecks, photographic grains,...


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pp. 245-247


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pp. 249-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488782
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791453414
Print-ISBN-10: 0791453413

Page Count: 271
Illustrations: 8 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 53117893
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Waste-Site Stories

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Material culture.
  • Refuse and refuse disposal -- Psychological aspects.
  • Collectors and collecting -- Psychological aspects.
  • Historic preservation -- Social aspects
  • Postmodernism.
  • Civilization, Modern -- 1950-.
  • Memory -- Social aspects.
  • Recycling (Waste, etc.) -- Psychological aspects.
  • Historic sites -- Social aspects
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  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access