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'The landfill has always borne fruit': precarity, formalisation and dispossession among Uruguay's waste pickers

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Abstract

Precarity has often been considered a hallmark of waste-picking, a survival activity whose practitioners are exposed to health risks, exploitation and fluctuating commodity markets. Adopting a three-dimensional approach to precarity that centres on 'exposure to danger', 'uncertain tenure' and 'dependence', this paper compares Uruguayan waste-pickers' (clasificadores) experiences of precarity at the Felipe Cardoso landfill, its related cooperative, and a formal sector recycling plant. Clasificadores at Felipe Cardoso characterise the landfill as a 'mother' who dependably provides them with food, clothes and construction materials. Recently, the Uruguayan state has sought to divert clasificadores to what is regarded as more dignified labour in recycling plants. I argue that the formalisation of some waste-pickers creates a cleavage within the occupation, dispossessing and delegitimising those who continue to work 'informally'.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalDialectical Anthropology
Volume43
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019

    Research areas

  • Recycling, Waste, Precarity, Formalisation, Dispossession

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