detour 313_via Prep Notes 2
Bauhaus University Weimar
*Extract from longer text by author, which was sent to K LAB in preparation before attending Workshop 2; see detour 306
(In the context of real-life crisis such as the 2017 collapse of the Meethotamulla dump in Sri Lanka - a garbage mountain covering 9 hectares exceeding 60 meters in height attention) […] Coming to terms with the complexity witnessed at the dumping site demands a particular engagement with the intertwining questions of environment and social difference. It requires questioning how for some people dealing with the environmental crisis is a path towards living a good and prosperous life, while for others, it is a crisis of daily survival.
[…] within the ongoing trash management interventions, the term “environment” is continuously framed within the 90’s rhetoric of sustainable environmental management as opposed to paying attention to the complexity of the ecological relations. As such, the identification of injustice relates only to the quantifiable damage, and mapping practices are limited to the proximities of the problem (e.g., the immediate site, the slum dwellers of Meetotamulla, the Keleniya river edge, etc.).
[…] many pre-established categories such as Global North-Global South, stakeholder identities, institutional identities are accepted without question and are used as ways of normatively framing the problem. […] The Global South, as the category affected is positioned at the receiving end of grants from the Global North as a compensation. Students and professionals directly engaged within these sites are driven by a sense of morality and become unintentionally part of these neo-liberal attempts at capitalizing on the sustainability narrative. For example, the savior mentality or the victim mentality through which agents might operate in these sites in Colombo need to be converted through developing the courage to ask somewhat critical questions that go beyond sympathetic frameworks.
The acknowledgment of methodological complexities involved in framing and consequently working with the aforementioned gaps points towards a much-needed shift in emphasis from systematic to systemic forms of inquiry. How can design provide alternative frameworks that allow waste sites to become a constructive component of the systemic design imagination? How can these imaginaries be utilized to make the abstract issues of inequalities of these sites (scales, agency, relations) visible so that it may be brought back into public discourse and action? In what ways can we use these frameworks to shift public debates from moral arguments on garbage crises to debates that trigger critical questions?
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