Wasting the Inner-city: Waste, Value and Anthropology on the Estates

Glucksberg, Luna. 2013. Wasting the Inner-city: Waste, Value and Anthropology on the Estates. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text ( Wasting the Inner-city: Waste, Value and Anthropology on the Estates )

Download (3MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis considers the social implications of urban regeneration from an anthropological perspective centred on concepts of waste and value. It is concerned with the symbolic devaluation of people, their homes and communities on inner-city estates in south-east London. This process is of course nothing new, as the extensive literature on gentrification both in the UK and around the world, by anthropologists and social scientists in general, testifies. The originality of the thesis lies in connecting large scale urban regeneration programmes to small scale, everyday processes of dealing with waste in people’s homes, and communally on their estates.

The ethnography connects these two levels by showing how those who live on estates often lack the most basic tools – such as lifts that work, or doors that open, or space in their kitchens – to engage in recycling themselves, meaning they are excluded and ‘othered’ from a morally loaded value-creating circuit which feeds into their symbolic representation as intrinsically worthless and ‘other’. Meanwhile, the very same residents engage in community building in their everyday lives, producing and reproducing their estates as sociable spaces they care deeply about, even though within the confines of a framework that only recognises value in what is privately, individually owned, epitomised in the ‘Right to Buy’ policy that has deeply affected housing estates in England for the past thirty years, residents' efforts are either misread or ignored by those in charge of the estates.

The thesis thus challenges the misrepresentation of its main set of respondents – working class, poor, ethnically diverse inner-city dwellers - as valueless and as waste themselves, labels that are attached to them not just by media and popular culture, but also by officers, policies and politicians, who are interviewed and interrogated at length in the course of the thesis. Furthermore, it questions the alleged parallels between processes of urban regeneration and recycling. It is easy to understand why local authorities and developers would wish to adopt the morally loaded terminology of recycling and apply it to their programmes, presenting regeneration as related to recycling in its positive connotations of both improvement and recovery of the old, be it people or homes. The ethnography shows instead that regeneration in practice is more akin to wasting and buying new, in that established residents are moved out of their homes, which are then demolished, or wasted, and new middle class incomers are welcomed in – bought anew?

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Waste, Value, Anthropology, Urban Regeneration, Social Housing, Recycling, Class, Symbolic Violence, Community

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



January 2013

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 Aug 2013 09:45

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:42



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)