CARGC Colloquium: Hana Masri, “The Rhetoric of Waste and the Politics of Human Disposability from the Americas to the Arab World”
December 3 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST
This presentation examines material waste’s role in shaping broader discourses about which lives have value and which, like trash itself, are deemed disposable. Addressing case studies ranging from the politics of wastewater infrastructure in Gaza to migrant communities organizing against environmental racism in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to large scale uprisings against the Lebanese government spurred by its failure to manage the country’s garbage, the presentation focuses on how embodied sensation, like smell, can both communicate human disposability and motivate collective political action. These case studies affirm the rhetorical function of matter across transnational contexts and also evidence a need to attend to the ways racial, colonial, and capitalist hierarchies of human value are embedded in and contested by nonhuman communication. By turning to the smell of waste as a communicative force that confounds traditionally upheld boundaries between material and symbolic (consequently spurring otherwise unlikely social movement coalitions), I argue that more-than-human material communication is constitutive of–rather than a break from–the sociopolitical and rhetorical systems that make certain groups of people less-than-human.
Hana Masri earned her PhD in rhetoric and language from the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2020. Her work examines matter’s role in rhetorical constructions of migration, citizenship, sovereignty, and settler colonialism in contexts from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to the Middle East. She is particularly interested in the ways that what gets designated trash can function both to render groups of people as waste or surplus and, at times, challenge such designations. This work emphasizes how waste communicates global discourses of human disposability across geopolitically distinct contexts, while also serving as a creative resource to communities and movements that contest modernity’s hierarchies of human value. Her research on these topics and on feminist studies, queer migrations, environmental racism, and social movements more broadly can be found in QED, Women’s Studies in Communication, and Scholar and Feminist, as well as forthcoming edited volumes on queer migrations and Middle Eastern and North African communication studies. Her research on border “trash” in Arizona and the politics of sewage in Gaza has also received top paper awards from the National Communication Association in 2016 and 2019.