Waste intimacies: Caste and the unevenness of life in urban Pakistan

by WAQAS H. BUTT

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In cities around the world, the removal of waste materials is a critical part of everyday life. Workers, both formal and informal, engage in intimate forms of labor that separate these materials from those who produce them. In Lahore, Pakistan, such waste intimacies are fraught by inequalities, which are discernible in affective, material, and spatial relations stretching across an uneven urban landscape. Waste work in urban Pakistan is a social relationship formed along the lines of caste, class, and religion; both municipal sanitation workers who are Christian and informal waste workers who are Muslim come from low‐ or noncaste backgrounds. Waste intimacies foreground those forms of work, relationships, and affects that, in distributing waste across individuals and social groups, reproduce a shared though unequal world.