Congratulations to ISG lecturer Rachel Vaughn for her recent article publication Compost and Menstrual Blood: Women Waste Pickers and the Work of Waste Futurity in the Chemical Entanglements: Gender & Exposure special issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience (May 2020, Catalyst Project).
This article critically analyzes the afterlives of the sloughed uterine lining, the menses or period blood around which an entire ‘feminine products’ industry and waste management discourse has erupted. I engage ecological and green consumerism in the early 21st century as it both replicates and departs from discourses that frame the sloughed uterine lining and the products used to ‘manage’ it as disgusting and hazardous to human health, and as various actors seek to influence product sales or design as an attempt for menses to suit the goals of zero-waste. In centering my attention particularly on SWaCH’s Red Dot Campaign in Pune, India, I suggest that waste picker collectives especially are positioning themselves as important stakeholders, co-designers and necessary professional consultants on the product design of menstrual disposal technology. I ask what new insights might be gleaned by shifting attention away from consumption and waste management technology to center transnational grappling with what I elsewhere refer to as waste futurity, specifically menstrual waste’s futurity? Drawing upon a growing electronic archive produced by waste picker collectives in India, I center the expertise of those in the global disposal sector as they have represented their heterogeneous positions on their websites, mission statements, product sales, in public service media, interviews, and especially as one particular collective negotiates the validity of their gendered labor conditions and professional expertise in municipal zero-waste strategies. I expressly examine how workers harness revaluation in zero-waste strategies and in the futurity embedded in what is considered one of the most culturally abject of ‘wastes’—menstrual blood—to emphasize this notion of future vitality in the presumed dead, over, and impossibly useless.
To read more of Vaughn’s publication, please click here.