Garbage Governmentalities and Environmental Justice in New Jersey
Objectives: This dissertation researches the evolution of garbage governance approaches in New Jersey and related geographies from the 1870s through the 1970s to examine their implication in the production of contrasting but mutually-constituted landscapes of garbage disposal and environmental cleanliness. This work gives special attention to how the current pattern of landfills, incinerators, and solid waste transfer stations in the State came to be distributed among differently situated people and places, during the State's implementation of a solid waste flow control policy in the 1970s and its cited spatial, environmental, and economic components. This work also examines how selected residents of a community hosting a waste facility, and those of a non-host community served by that facility, come to view and understand the differential patterns of environmental quality within which they exist.
Theoretical Context: Research questions are informed by environmental justice studies which consider the role of the state and specific government policies in producing differential landscapes of environmental quality in relation to larger power structures and socio-spatial processes of capitalism, colonialism, and racism. However, this work differs by situating the production of environmental (in)justice within a more diffuse notion of power, using Foucault's concept of governmentality as a model of governance. Accordingly, this work examines the story of how garbage governance practices have become internalized and enacted at multiple scales, from the individual, to households, to the formal institutions of government, and in relation to how the state promotes certain subjectivities and social relations to achieve the general population's health, safety, and welfare; ensure circulation within the political-economic system; and deploy space in governance projects. As garbage and society scholarship shows, garbage is simultaneously a human resource and a burden, and therefore the object of multiple governmental interventions within which environmental justice issues emerge.
Methods: This work uses a sequential mixed methods approach. First, qualitative content analysis of archival sources, laws and public hearing documents, government agency reports, newspaper articles, and key informant interviews with policy experts and environmental justice leaders will be conducted, along with thematic mapping of readily available demographic data, solid waste production volumes, and facility location data at various scales using geographic information systems software and methods. Second, using these results, case study communities will be selected consisting of host and non-host towns or neighborhoods within a facility's service area. Case studies research will include interviews with at least one family in each a host and a non-host neighborhood, who will photograph their household garbage management practices for two weeks; and more detailed demographic mapping overlaid with cartographic flow lines and facility locations to show the movement of garbage to each case study facility from its service area. The photos and maps will be used in separate focus groups with selected residents of host and non-host neighborhoods.
Intellectual merit: This work aims to contribute to scholarship and theory by analyzing environmental justice issues in historical perspective, using a multi-scalar notion of governance that includes a broader definition of relevant actors and practices. In this manner, this work departs from traditional environmental justice studies which typically present a narrative plot of limited governmental, community, and corporate actors in the production of sites of final disposal. Broader impacts: The broader impacts of this work rest in its potential to inform alternative environmental justice scholarship, activism, and policy, by expanding the present scope to include not only the sites of final disposal, but also the activities taking place at other spatial scales and as part of the everyday life governance practices of individuals, communities, institutions, corporations, and the formal governmental apparatus. In this sense, all members of society are involved in the production of environmental (in)justice conditions.