Scholars, Writers, and Activists Who Like to Talk Trash

About us

We are an international group of researchers, teachers, writers, artists, and activists who work on the representation of waste (garbage, detritus, trash, marine and ocean debris, air pollution, architectural ruins, industrial leakage, e-waste, bodily excretions, nuclear fallout, and other remaindered “stuff”) in literature from the Middle Ages to the 21st century (and beyond!). You can read more about our individual members here.

What binds us is a fascination with the many meanings that writers and thinkers have attached to waste over the centuries, and the ways in which the vocabulary of waste and wastage has in turn been used to describe people, places and things… for all manner of reasons.

We think words and pictures matter.

We think waste matters.

And we think that words and pictures about waste matter.

We also think that the literary representation of waste across media is as important as the conceptualisation of waste by sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and psychologists–which is to say, that literature (and film and television) has much to teach us about shifting notions of value, hygiene, “purity,” toxicity, and utility. And we think that focussing on the role of dirty, filthy, or worthless stuff (not to mention time-wasting, unused spaces, wastelands, unbreathable air, chemical pollutants, and human beings who have been deemed worthless) in a literary text can provide insights into it.

Finally… we are interested in how writers approach the socio-political dimension of waste. What does it mean to categorise something as waste? What does it mean to assign particular countries, people, or spaces the responsibility of “containing” or stewarding waste, and what ramifications do these assignations have? How do questions of gender, race, nationhood, empire, religious belief, ideology, and sexuality inform waste narratives, and to what extent do specific “waste tropes” recur across cultures, genres, and forms?

Our first essay collection, Queer Waste and Feminist Excretions: New Directions in Literary and Cultural Waste Studies, is under contract with SUNY Press.

Read about our members’ recent publications here.

If you are interested in the literary, cinematic, or televisual depiction of garbage, junk, trash, human remains, human excretions, animal scat, industrial byproducts, architectural relics, fallout, plastic pollution, air pollution, dust, electronic and digital waste, space debris, marine debris, landfills, dirt, time-wasting, or people relegated to the social status of waste … get in touch: or @racheledini1

Read about our members here.

Chiara Briganti, Unfinished and Undone (2019)
Chiara Briganti, Legacy (2016)
Chiara Briganti, Legacy 2 (2017)
Chiara Briganti, Arrivals and Departures (2018)

WASTEINLIT: The international Literary waste Studies Network

The International Literary Waste Studies Network is a group of academics interested in the depiction of waste (broadly defined) in literature across the ages. If you are interested in getting involved, or have ideas for conferences, workshops, or publications, get in touch with us at!

Twitter / email




London, UK


Get in touch!

Twitter: @racheledini1