Art and the Toxic Politics of Waste: Latin America

Sophie Mepham's picture
January 14, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, Government and Public Service, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies, Public Health, Urban Design and Planning

The Urban Laboratory, based at UCL, are hosting an online film screening and panel discussion on Thursday 14th January, to examine the role of artistic production in challenging knowledge and inspiring activism around waste and toxicity, looking at these issues in the context of Latin America.

This event has been organised by Dr Adriana Massidda (De Montfort University), as part of a collaboration with Dr Hanna Baumann, based at UCL's Institute for Global Prosperity.

We will be sharing a link for registered attendees to stream two recent observational documentaries from Friday 8th January:

La multitud (2012), by Argentinian filmmaker Martín Oesterheld, provokes discussion about the interplay between urban ruins, toxic space, neoliberalism and political violence.

In contrast, Estamira (2005), by Brazilian filmmaker Marcos Prado, focuses on scavenger and philosopher Estamira, who through her oneiric depiction of life in the dumps, poses questions of moral and material value.

By engaging with issues of labour and value(s) in Rio's garbage dumps, and urban ruination in neoliberal Buenos Aires, the films will allow us to discuss the links between spaces contaminated by waste and political systems, considering how value chains and waste circulations are entangled across the Global North/South divide.

For this interactive panel discussion, our filmmakers Martín Oesterheld and Marcos Prado will be joined by:

Geoffrey Kantaris (University of Cambridge) who through his engagement with Estamira addresses issues of commodity and affect (Kantaris, 2015).

Gisela Heffes (Rice University) whose current project focuses on toxic nature, mutated bodies, and altered landscapes in contemporary Argentine narratives and cinema.

Patrick O'Hare (University of St Andrews). whose research is focused on the role of garbage in Uruguay as an urban commons.

Through this event we seek to ask: how is the ecological contamination and social marginalisation caused by the presence of waste linked to 'toxic politics'? How can alternative media draw attention to these issues and promote action?

Contact Info: 

Sophie Mepham, Centre Manager, UCL Urban Laboratory

Contact Email: