Posts Tagged ‘Robin Nagle’

Pick up Picking Up in paper back

Friday, April 18, 2014

Back in January of 2008, I came across an NYC event listing that seemed to have been drafted just for me: a presentation given by a group of NYU anthropology students who had spent a semester planning a museum to honor the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY). Professor Robin Nagle, DSNY’s anthropologist in residence co-taught the course.

Photo via

Photo via

That’s how I discovered that such a position existed and that’s the first time I got to hear Nagle lecture on the history of trash in New York City. Her passion for the subject came across so clearly that I knew right away this idea of a museum honoring the sanitation department constituted more than a hypothetical class assignment. We discussed it a bit more one Trashtastic Tuesday; and a couple years after that I got her to join me on a panel about art and garbage that took place inside an RV parked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Since then, I have kept up with Nagle mainly through social media (she has a badass Instagram feed) and by following the academic waste blog she founded, Discard Studies.

Then, a few weeks ago, my friend Oriana Leckert of Brooklyn Spaces asked if I wanted to join her at an event that merged her passion for unique creative venues with my passion for trash at the fabulous headquarters of Atlas Obscura. Nagle gave a fabulous lecture on the history of New York City’s struggle to deal with our trash. Highlights included amazing footage shot by Thomas Edison of sanitation workers loading a trash barge in 1903.  Did you know Edison took little slice of life vignettes of the city and that you can view them all on YouTube thanks to the Library of Congress? You’re welcome.

After the lecture, I went home and opened up my copy of Picking Up, Nagle’s wonderful book in which she chronicles her time on the job as a sanitation worker and puts a human face on the corps of people who deal with our trash once we throw it “away.”


picking up

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City

The book is full of great anecdotes, personal stories and incredible facts. It’s a must read for all trashes and is now available in paperback. Go forth and purchase.


Summer Reading List

Friday, July 6, 2012

Trash wonks, prepare for your dirty little hearts to explode. Discard Studies, the online hub for scholarly waste, just posted a meta reading list that should keep you occupied all summer and many seasons to come. It’s a compilation of syllabi from your favorite trashademics.

I can’t wait to dig through the course reading assignments from garbology classes taught at NYU, Evergreen, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley and other institutions for classes with amazing titles including: “The Joy of Garbage,” “Fetishist, Collector, Hoarder,” and “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Politics: Sex, Drugs, and Garbage.”

What a resource!

The Twist-Ties that Bind

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Wednesday, December 8th, Dr. Robin Nagle, New York’s Department of Sanitation anthropologist in residence, is giving  a talk entitled “The Twist-Ties that Bind” as part of an ongoing series of Freshkills Park talks. Here’s the description:

Join Dr. Robin Nagle to learn (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about garbage in New York. Discover how profoundly it connects us to each other, to history, to politics, to infrastructure and technology. Hear stories and reflections from people who shoulder its burdens. Glimpse some of its surprising secrets. Consider why we need to ignore it, and ponder the consequences of its invisibility. The insights you glean migh…t just change forever the way you see your city.

Dr. Nagle is the anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation. She is also director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University, where she teaches anthropology and urban studies. Her book Picking Up, about what it is to be a sanitation worker in New York and why you should care, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University.

I highly recommend checking out this event if you’re in or near NYC. Freshkills Park has created a Facebook event so you don’t forget. And even if you can’t make it, check out Dr. Nagle’s garblog, Discard Studies. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s rad.

Discard Studies

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Robin Nagle, anthropologist in residence for the Department of Sanitation, New York City, is both a favorite tipster and topic here at Today’s Nagle-find is the very exciting news that the professor herself has entered the world of garblogging! Her nascent site, Discard Studies, aspires to become a nexus of trash scholarship, a clearinghouse of academics exploring questions of waste and a living bibliography of their work. We are VERY EXCITED to see this initiative take off. The success of the project depends on spreading the word. If you know of related work underway, in some shade of gray or already published, please pass it along. Garbologists unite!

And in the meantime, check out the blog’s first few posts. Every single one is fascinating.

New York’s Strongest

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ugh, trashies, forgive my sporadic posting these days. The new day job is all consuming, but that’s no excuse, especially since SO MUCH has been going on in the world of garbage. This weekend was totally saturated with new trash finds, mostly thanks to the fantastic event artist Paul Lloyd Sargent organized on the converted RV known as MLAB. We held a little garposium featuring Robin Nagle, who shared the back story on how exactly one becomes anthropologist in residence for the Department of Sanitation, yours truly who shared the origin myth of and Lisa Dowda of Chasing Sanitation. To round out the day, Paul closed with an excellent overview of evolution of trash art (which I wont go into here in fear of spoiling the future guest post I hope to wrangle on the topic).

First off, let me tell you about Chasing Sanitation, a website that Lisa and her coconspirator Liz Ligon hope to make into a book. As the title suggests, they spend a good deal of time chasing sanmen and women and documenting their hopes, dreams and daily lives. The result is both beautiful and compelling.


Check out their kickstarter site to donate to the project and get updates on the book-in-progress’ journey to completion and publication. I know my coffee table feels empty without it. In the meantime, check out to peruse photos and life stories. And if salt of the earth stories aren’t compelling enough for you, check out this recent story on the creative women behind the site. To raise money and awareness for their cause, Lisa and Liz are awarding a date with one of “New York’s Strongest” for anyone who donates more than $1500. That’s right.

Trailer trash panel

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Sunday (9/19/10), is taking part in a trash-themed panel  moderated by artist Paul Lloyd Sargent as part of a project called “15 minutes, 15 people” on the Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (MLAB).


MLAB is a renovated RV that travels the country hosting educational events. It holds about 15 people, hence the project name. Now through September 24th, the RV is parked in front of the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery (29 Orchard Street). And from 2-4pm on Sunday, Paul will host a panel on the disposal chain that will include trashies like myself and the amazing Robin Nagle, anthropologist in residence for the Department of Sanitation, New York City.

We’ve covered both Paul and Robin’s work in past posts. Most recently here and here.

Robin was also recently interviewed by The Believer so be sure to check that out.

Facebook invite to the overall MLAB event here.

I’m looking forward to filling a trailer with trash talk with these guys plus other trashies!  If you’re in NYC, stop on by. And let me know if you’re interested in a trash collecting walk beforehand. Paul is organizing one as part of a larger garbage art project.

Edmonton Composting Facility

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just catching up on the third installment of City Room’s “Ask a Garbologist” feature from last week. In particular, I was selfishly pleased to see my own question answered—what are some model policies from other cities that New York could learn from?

Dr. Nagle’s response:

New York’s garbage footprint would shrink significantly if we could build a large-scale composting facility like this state-of-the-art example in Edmonton, Canada. That city, like so many, once consigned all its household waste to landfills, but now 60 percent of it is recycled or composted.

Edmonton’s plant, which takes up about 60 acres, is the largest in North America. The city proper has a population of about 750,000; the larger metropolitan region has approximately one million. A similar facility in New York would have to be a whole lot bigger if we intended it to serve the entire city. Unlike Edmonton, we are not surrounded by open space, so an immediate problem would be finding a place to put it. Edmontonians claim that their facility emits no odors (and no odours, either), a fact verified by a friend who toured it a couple of years ago. Even a stink-free plant in New York would bump up against NIMBY issues, but if we had the political will, the patience and the right spirit, I bet we could build something similar.

Edmonton Composting Facility

Thanks, Robin, for taking the time! And thanks, City Room for the trashtastic feature! Readers if you’re just tuning in, I highly recommend sifting through all three installments of answers from a garbologist. Each is riddled with interesting facts and handy references to trashy resources.

Empire of Scrounge

Friday, July 16, 2010

In part II of garbologist Dr. Robin Nagle‘s entertaining and informative answers to the public’s burning questions about garbage (posted today over at City Room), she reccomends Jeff Ferrell‘s book and blog “Empire of Scrounge.” In Googling, I see that the subtitle of the book is “Inside the Urban Underground of Dumpster Diving, Trash Picking, and Street Scavenging.” Sounds like our cup of tea. Has anyone read it? Blog link here.

Ask a Garbologist

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The fabulous Dr. Robin Nagle, Anthropologist in Residence for the Department of Sanitation of New York, is taking trashy questions over at City Room. I posted one about waste policies. Got burning quesitons of your own? Here’s your chance to ask an expert!

Dr. Robin Nagle

For more on the woman behind such a cool job title, check out the Trashtastic Tuesday Q&A she granted back in 2008.

Landfill lovin’

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Robin Nagle, anthropologist in residence for New York City’s Department of Sanitation, is giving a talk on the Freshkills landfill as a sacred space. This extraspecial event will take place on the North mound at said landfill on Saturday, June 20th, starts at noon. New Yorkers, follow the link to RSVP.

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