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Book Launch for Waste Works: Vital Politics in Urban Ghana

Organized by the Department of Global Studies

Info about event


Monday 8 May 2023,  at 16:00 - 18:00


Aarhus University, building 1461, room 516


Department of Global Studies


Brenda Chalfin’s new book Waste Works: Vital Politics in Urban Ghana examines the politics of infrastructure production and failure in Ghana’s planned city of Tema. Focusing on urban sewage and sanitation, Chalfin traces sanitary infrastructural repair, rebuilding and reinvention in this mid-century city built through the combined efforts of President Kwame Nkrumah and renowned Greek urbanist Constantinos Doxiadis. Using everyday urban practice to rework the theoretical insights of Latour, Laporte and Arendt, the book demonstrates that taking excrement out of the private realm and grip of the state unlocks unexpected arenas of public life and new configurations of domesticity, ultimately challenging the high modernist straitjacket that insists shit must disappear. Chalfin will share her book’s core findings and the backstory of research and publication. 


Brenda Chalfin is Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Florida where she served as Director of the Center for African Studies from 2016-2022. Chalfin is the author of 3 books: Waste Works: Vital Politics in Urban Ghana (Duke, 2023); Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa (Chicago 2010) and Shea Butter Republic (Routledge 2004). Her research examines state processes, border regions, public life and the governance of material flows, from waste and water to off-shore oil finds and indigenous commodities. Chalfin’s recent work explores the politics of urban form through the case study of popular responses to infrastructural breakdown in Ghana’s city of Tema. She is currently pursuing a new project in partnership with colleagues in Ghana and Uganda addressing plastics, water supply and urban development. 

During the 2022-23 academic year Chalfin is on sabbatical at Aarhus University where she is a visiting faculty member in Global Studies and collaborating with faculty at Aarhus School of Architecture to advance her knowledge of studio and design-based inquiry to inform Anthropology teaching and research.