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date: 20 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the origins of, and possibilities for, an archaeology of the contemporary world derived from observations of recently discarded waste. It begins with a discussion of the pioneering ‘Garbage Project’ founded by William Rathje (1945–2012) at the University of Arizona, contextualizing its emergence from ‘behavioral archeology’ as well as the distinct milieu of Cold War America, to which it owes it epistemological and material roots. The chapter reflects on Rathje’s legacy with a consideration of the folk-archaeological activities of waste workers at a large landfill in Michigan. A discussion of fieldwork conducted at this landfill reveals the ethical and political dilemmas associated with understanding others through their rubbish, as well as the opportunities this practice offers as a means of social reflection.

Keywords: waste, garbology, William Rathje, behavioral archeology, landfill, folk-archaeology

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