ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Shireen MirzaSubscribe to Shireen Mirza

Becoming Waste

Colonial municipal planning discourses imagined waste as infrastructure to build Bombay city by filling creeks and reclaiming land. Waste as land was reassembled through the judiciary’s remaking of the landfill as a zone of pollution to be “scientifically” closed through waste treatment technologies. Even as science attempts to comprehend its complexity and contain it, waste possesses an agency of its own that disrupts the social, haunting reclaimed real estate with its fugitive gaseous presence.

Figure of the Halalkhore

Cow protection groups have been reported to engage in acts of public violence against Dalit and Muslim caste labourers. In the context of these occurrences, this article explores the relationship between caste identity and performing “stigmatised” labour—sanitation, removing refuse, and collecting urban waste—in colonial Bombay. The idea of dirt as a cultural category is not new; it is part of a hereditary system that imprints physical and moral impurity on its actors. The attacks on select castes today are part of a Hindutva ideal to purify India and remake it as a caste Hindu nation.
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