New Books in Critical Theory: a Conversation with Dave O’Brien

About this time last year I had the pleasure of meeting and being interviewed by Dave O’Brien at Goldsmiths for the New Books in Critical Theory site. In the interview I discuss Waste and how it come into being. It’s the only audio interview I’ve done about the book and, together, Dave and I discuss a wide range of theoretical, historical, political, and environmental concerns that intersect with the concept of waste. Below I’ve quoted Dave’s description of the podcast and you can hear it here.

What is waste? William Viney‘s Waste: A Philosophy of Things (Bloomsbury, 2014; 2015) explores the meaning of waste across a variety of contexts, including literature, sculpture and architecture. The text begins by stressing the importance of time to our understanding of waste, as opposed to more traditional conceptions that are grounded in spatial distinctions. Rather than looking at waste through the dualities of useful or not useful, dirty or clean, William Viney asks us to be attentive to our relationship to objects in time, understanding how they are understood by the many narratives that they may contain, which they may have been party to, and which they may require for us to be able to understand them. The book draws on an emerging but established tradition of work that draws attention to the role of materiality and objects in our understanding of the world. By offering an alternative to the view that waste is the garbage of consumer capitalism, we can see the value of things as their potential, as it is realised in time. The importance of time to understanding objects, as well as understanding waste, is seen through diverse examples, from Cornelia Parker’s sculptures, one created from an exploded shed, through the material objects of the manuscripts of James Joyce, to the representation of future ruins in The Planet of The Apes. These diverse and eclectic sites to exploring waste sit alongside the readings of more traditional subjects for literary theory, such as Elliot’s The Waste Land, meaning the book will appeal to a range of scholars working across the humanities and in the social sciences.

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