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Wasted Cities: A Critical Look Into Our Waste and Our Resources


Admission requirements

This course is part of Sustainability, Climate Change and Food and therefore only accessible to students enrolled in that Minor.


Waste is a part of our daily existence; but it is often invisibilized especially in cities. Compost bins, municipal waste collection system ferrate away waste. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality causes people to disconnect from where people’s waste goes. In this course, all types of waste, especially food, will become visible to explore our relationship with waste. This course will consist of dynamic interdisciplinary seminars drawing upon areas such as art, design, history, economics, sociology, sustainability (waste management) science, health, and politics to understand how we shape waste, but also how waste shapes us. We will be working with and hearing from several partners from municipal waste management systems, food producers, distributors, fruit and vegetable markets, professional associations (pharmacist associations), and civil society organizations. Engagement between theory and practice is a critical component of this course.

After exploring theories of waste and value, the course examines a broad selection of historic and contemporary geographies of waste with a focus on the Hague. Specific topics will include: the role of discourses and practices of waste in patterns of injustice and segregation; concepts of pollution governing debates on sustainability and the urban environment; formal and informal labours of garbage management and questions of stigma and rights to the city; global waste circulations and capitalist globalization; the transformation of value and meaning involved in diverse processes of recycling; waste-based social movements and rebellion through disorder; the art of rubbish.

Course Objectives

  • To critically reflect upon the creation and destruction of value through examining discourses and practices of waste.

  • To better understand questions of sustainability, urban ecological design, and people’s relationship to nature in the city through unpacking our relationship to trash.

  • To consider the role of stigmatized labour in constructing and upholding gender, race, and class difference.

  • To consider our own practices of consumption and waste through examining the specific waste geographies of The Hague.

  • To explore a set of social movements and artistic practices derived from the creative power of waste.


TBA; information will be published before May 2023.

Mode of instruction

In addition to lectures, course instruction will including watching of films, guest speakers, and workshops by KABK lectures.

Assessment Method

This course will be based on two assessments.

Creative practical assignment

  • 30 % of final grade

  • Grade must be 5,5 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit of a fail is possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Final exam – combination of multiple choice and open questions

  • 70% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5,5 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit of a fail is possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Reading list

The links for the relevant readings for this course will be provided indicated in the syllabus. All readings will be available via the Leiden library.


Registration starts early May. Additional information TBA.