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Racialized Politics of Garbage

Project: Research


Most people assume that environmental risks are problems faced equally by everyone in our society. However, a growing body of research shows that the most common victims of environmental hazards and pollution are minorities and the poor. In Europe, disproportionate exposure to adverse environmental conditions is part of the complex cycle of dispossession and racial discrimination faced by marginalised minorities such as the Roma. This projects demonstrates that neoliberal governance, underpinned by moral appeals and racist imaginaries legitimises repression of the ‘impure’ subjects and relinquishment of public responsibility for areas where they live. The effect is deeply entrenched environmental racism that frames Roma people as ‘human waste’, enclosing them in segregated and polluted neighbourhoods constructed on contaminated sites or adjacent to landfills. The project gathers unique empirical data in four Roma neighborhoods: Hős utca in the 10th district of Budapest, Hungary; Pata Rat in Cluj Napoca, Romania; “5 Mai” in Tirana, Albania; and Ali Ibra in Gjakova, Kosovo . The analysis of relevant policy documents, opinion surveys and open-ended interviews with key stakeholders exposes existence of oppressive tactics ranging from ‘active’ neglect, to evictions, and criminalisation of coping practices.

Key findings

Uniformly in all four cases, the intensifying forces of neoliberal governance contributed to the deterioration of environmental conditions, making Roma communities increasingly worse off. Nevertheless, far from being passive victims of environmental damaged, Roma residents have employed divers coping strategies and continue to contest the status quo.
Effective start/end date1/01/1930/06/19
  • Kostka, Joanna (Principal Investigator)
  • Dunajeva, Jekatyerina (Principal Investigator)