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Adam Liebman

Years in Fellowship:
Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of California, Davis, 2018

My research lies at the intersections of the environmental humanities, political ecology, and science and technology studies. I am currently revising a book manuscript, titled “Turning Trash into Treasure: Shadow Economies and Toxic Ecologies in Kunming, China.” The book ethnographically examines tensions between state-entrepreneurial projects that seek to bring western-style recycling systems, aesthetics, and ethics to China, and rural migrants who make a living collecting, processing, and trading scrap in informal economies. This tension illustrates two ways that Chinese waste politics engages with “recycling:” as a necessary element of urban environmental modernity, and as a polluting globalized industry reliant on cheap labor and inadequate environmental governance. The book will highlight how Kunming’s waste and the people who live off this waste do more than simply protect or threaten the environment. Together they form unruly collaborators that generate value, release toxicity, fuel differentiating forms of sociality, and challenge western notions of recycling.

Adam Liebman outdoors