More-than-human politics: The case of plastic bags

Hawkins, Gay (2009) More-than-human politics: The case of plastic bags. Australian Humanities Review, 46: 43-55.

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Author Hawkins, Gay
Title More-than-human politics: The case of plastic bags
Journal name Australian Humanities Review   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1325-8338
Publication date 2009-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Issue 46
Start page 43
End page 55
Total pages 13
Editor Monique Rooney
Russell Smith
Place of publication Canberra, ACT, Australia
Publisher School of Humanities, Australian National University
Language eng
Subject 200203 Consumption and Everyday Life
Formatted abstract
Suddenly everyone is talking about plastic bags. The muted chatter that has surrounded them for years has become loud and insistent. Open any newspaper around Australia and you are confronted with headlines like: The Battle of the Bag, Eco Worriers—how buying the groceries presents environmental dilemmas, Ban on Bags Can't Carry Weight, or Plastic Bags—the Cane Toads of Capitalism! As this publicity shows bags have changed, they've become contested matter, a site of controversy over their uses and impacts. As scientists discover marine life choking on bags and environmental activists document their endless afterlife in landfill, they have been transformed from innocuous disposable container to dangerous threat to the environment.

But what of the bag in all this? Even though it seems to be the centre of attention it remains strangely mute and submissive, a passive victim of reclassification.

How would the politics of plastic bags be understood if the focus shifted from questions of effects to questions of practice? From predetermined environmental impacts to the various ways in which plastic materiality becomes entangled with publics and citizenship? What is the potency of these objects in various forms of everyday conduct and political association? How can we make sense of plastic bags as the stuff of politics?

These are the questions that drive this paper. My broad aim is to show why socio-ecological humanities research needs to pay more attention to questions of matter, and to argue that nonhuman entities are now central participants in many political processes.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies Publications
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Created: Tue, 22 Feb 2011, 14:50:40 EST by Professor Gay Hawkins on behalf of Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies