Cover of Waste Siege by Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
Waste Siege
The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine
Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins


344 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503607309
Paperback ISBN: 9781503610897
Ebook ISBN: 9781503610903

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Excerpts and More

Winner of the 2020 Albert Hourani Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).

Winner of the 2020 MES Book Award, sponsored by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) - Middle East Section.

Joint Winner of the the 2021 Sharon Stephens Book Prize, sponsored by the American Ethnological Society.

Winner of the 2021 Julian Steward Award, sponsored by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) - Anthropology and the Environment Section.

Winner of the 2020 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, sponsored by the American Library Association.

Waste Siege offers an analysis unusual in the study of Palestine: it depicts the environmental, infrastructural, and aesthetic context in which Palestinians are obliged to forge their lives. To speak of waste siege is to describe a series of conditions, from smelling wastes to negotiating military infrastructures, from biopolitical forms of colonial rule to experiences of governmental abandonment, from obvious targets of resistance to confusion over responsibility for the burdensome objects of daily life. Within this rubble, debris, and infrastructural fallout, West Bank Palestinians create a life under settler colonial rule.

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins focuses on waste as an experience of everyday life that is continuous with, but not a result only of, occupation. Tracing Palestinians' own experiences of wastes over the past decade, she considers how multiple authorities governing the West Bank—including municipalities, the Palestinian Authority, international aid organizations, NGOs, and Israel—rule by waste siege, whether intentionally or not. Her work challenges both common formulations of waste as "matter out of place" and as the ontological opposite of the environment, by suggesting instead that waste siege be understood as an ecology of "matter with no place to go." Waste siege thus not only describes a stateless Palestine, but also becomes a metaphor for our besieged planet.

About the author

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bard College.

"There are so many reasons to read this book: it's brilliantly written, theoretically innovative, and politically necessary. Waste Siege is not only one of the most original accounts of waste to date, it is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the ongoing occupation of the West Bank from the perspective of ordinary Palestinians."

—Joshua Reno, author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill

"Waste Siege is an original and innovative account of living with the inundation of debris and toxicity in Palestine. Taking the reader on a journey through landfills and rubbish markets, encounters with bags of bread left hanging on the sides of dumpsters, and the movement of sewage across political barriers, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins brilliantly excavates the ambient politics of waste and its management."

—Ilana Feldman, author of Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics

"[An] insightful, penetrating account of life under six decades of military occupation for the nearly three million Palestinians....In this well-written, intelligent account based on firsthand ethnographic fieldwork, the author displays a keen understanding of both waste ecology and contemporary life in occupied Palestine. Highly recommended."

—G. M. Massey, CHOICE

"Although Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins' marvelous new book is about waste management in Palestine, it asks extremely timely and relevant questions about the putative universality of environmental threats, mobility, fixity, political violence, and state governance."

—Kareem Rabie, PoLAR

"Waste Siege is a welcome addition to the sparse literature about the environment, waste, and infrastructure in Palestine and the Middle East more broadly.[An] important work."

—Basma Fahoum, Arab Studies Quarterly

"By tracing the flows and forces of waste siege, this text enables a more refined understanding of the socio-political worlds forged with, under, and against occupation....In Stamatopoulou-Robbins's ethnography, environment, occupation, and everyday life are grasped in a single frame."

—Mohammed Rafi Arefin and Benjamin Kaplan Weinger, Cultural Geographies

"Through a careful sifting of the various sites at which waste from Israel threatens to overwhelm physical settings and the ordinary lives of Palestinians, Stamatopoulou-Robbins leads us to appreciate the structural impossibility of Palestinian self-government as a rejoinder to utopian fantasies of a two-state solution. The tracing of the afterlives of bread in the midst of the hurly burly of urban lives and waste management projects, incomplete of necessity, suggests alternative geographies of food infrastructure and mutual aid. We are treated to people who are fully fleshed-out and multi-dimensional and whose voices of rueful honesty, of humor mixed with anguish, continue to ring in our ears long after we put down the book. A community under siege is connected to the rest of the world by waste."

—Sharon Stephens Book Prize Committee