Date of Award

Summer 7-18-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Tim Oakes

Second Advisor

Seth Spielman

Third Advisor

Fernando Riosmena

Abstract

This dissertation investigates informal recycling networks and participants operating in Shanghai, China. Informal recycling networks are a prominent facet of urban space in Shanghai, as an estimated 200,000 rural migrants take part in collection, trading, and sorting of recyclable waste throughout cities. Recycling contributes value both by removing waste from urban space and channeling valuable materials back into commodity production.

Conflicting discourses paradoxically objectify recyclers as both paragons of entrepreneurial virtue and unsanitary urban interlopers. Tensions arise as state entities seek to control flows of both urban waste and rural migrants within the city. Arguing that access to urban space and waste is a crucial determinant for the success of migrant recyclers, this dissertation connects their shifting experiences and conceptions of mobility, citizenship and identity with the structures impacting their livelihood. Directly engaging migrant participants who experience, interpret and challenge the mandates of state power and social conceptions of their work and selves, methods employed include a mixed methodology of surveys, discourse analysis, interviews, focus groups, and mobile ethnography. The dissertation builds on the hypothesis that informal recycling's creation of social and economic value represents a citizenship strategy that reveals the contradictions underlying state and public visions of modern urban development.

Included in

Geography Commons

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