Urban Lab Films and Bertha DocHouse present a screening and moderated discussion on two recent short films from the Middle East, to examine the role of academic and artistic production in challenging knowledge and inspiring activism around waste and toxicity.

We will consider the links between contamination caused by waste and toxic politics to discuss how different forms of knowledge production can account for the often complex trajectories of rubbish, its slow and difficult-to-trace impact, and the complexity of political forces at play.

About the Films:

Kink Retrograde (2019; 19’) by Lebanese artist Bassem Saad, and Waste Underground (2017; 15’) by anthropologist Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins and Palestinian cinematographer Ali Aldeek, focus respectively on the ‘garbage crisis’ plaguing Lebanon since 2015 and the role of waste in Palestine under occupation.

The films engage in different ways with the links between spaces contaminated by waste and toxic political systems and will allow us to consider how value chains and waste circulations are entangled across the Global North / South divide.

About the Speakers:

Bassem Saad is an artist and writer trained in architecture. His work explores objects and operations that distribute violence, pleasure, welfare, and waste. Through video, sculpture, and writing, he investigates and records strategies for manoeuvring within and beyond governance systems.

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins is a cultural anthropologist and an Assistant Professor at Bard College, whose monograph Waste Siege was published with Stanford University Press in 2020. Waste Underground emerges from her fieldwork on efforts to bury Palestinian wastes in the West Bank.

Elizabeth Saleh works in the fields of political and economic anthropology with a special focus on waste, agriculture, labour and gender. She currently works as an assistant professor in Anthropology at the American University of Beirut.

Hanna Baumann (chair) is a Senior Research Fellow at The Bartlett's Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL. Her research is concerned with the role of infrastructures in urban conflict, exclusion and displacement.

About the Organisers:

This event is organised in partnership with Bertha DocHouse by Dr Hanna Baumann (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) and Dr Adriana Massidda (De Montfort University), in collaboration with UCL Urban Laboratory and the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies’ joint ‘waste’ research theme.

On Thursday the 3rd of December we held an online Q&A with both directors. Hosted by UCL's Hanna Baumann.