Dissertation Abstracts

Environment, sustainable development and urban solid waste management. Case study in a poor neighbouhood in La Plata city (Argentina)

Author: Ana Pilar Pi Puig, pilarpipuig@gmail.com
Department: Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales
University: Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina
Supervisor: Amalia Eguía
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Spanish

Keywords: Environment , Waste , Poverty , Sustainable development
Areas of Research: Environment and Society , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Theory


The general topic of the doctoral thesis is the environment-society relationship. Specifically, the research problem address the representations and practices around environment of people living in contexts of urban poverty, the frame being a particular discourse, the discourse of sustainable development that is currently hegemonic regarding environmental topics. In particular, it is posed to observe these dimensions through the specific environmental problem of waste. The research then seeks to relate the conceptualization about environment behind the sustainable development proposal - that rules environmental policies including the ones for urban solid waste management (USWM) - and the practices and representations on waste of people living in urban contexts of poverty. This articulation is addressed through a case study in a poor neighborhood of the periphery of La Plata city whose population live in poverty conditions. In the neighborhood waste appears in two ways: on the one hand, it is part of the daily scenery – paths, ditches, open dumps -; on the other hand, waste picking with carts – what also means waste-pickers circulating across the wider urban space – takes part as a living strategy of many households. Municipal documents expressing environmental policy lines will be analyzed. Especially the focus will be on urban solid waste management, including public debates, recycling cooperatives and conflicts with waste-pickers. This information will be completed with interviews to municipal officials. To comprehend practices and representations of people living in poverty conditions, field work will include observation in the neighborhood and in the houses, and in-depth interviews to inhabitants. A wide variety of actors will be sought in order to get an heterogeneous panorama about practices and representations of environment, in particular regarding their relation to waste. Interviews will be made to people working with waste, people whose households include working with waste among their living strategies, and people not related with working with waste. In any case, as waste is a product of human activity, everyone will have a kind of contact with waste, beyond working with it or not. It is important to mention that the case study is instrumental. What means that the case helps to comprehend a wider and more general phenomenon, that exceeds the case itself. The importance of this study lies on the search of new theoretical contributions that can shed light tensions and contradictions emerging from environmental problems in local contexts of urban poverty that cannot be explained by other perspectives like political ecology or environmental justice.

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