Rubbish as informants: a cultural contribution to Polish 'garbeology'


  • Wlodzimierz Karol Pessel



This article is not intended to multiply the complaints of ecologists, though it certainly confirms-with the help of arguments taken from Polish realities-that consumption and garbage production comprise an urgent problem. Rather, this article is a preliminary trial project, inspired by United States 'garbeology', marking out a fairly new research field both for social anthropologists as well as for other researchers exploring the culture of contemporary cities. The new aspect is not the notion of the outcast itself, since the idea of vestiges and of various wastes as cultural material has been introduced and universalised very efficiently by post-modern philosophy. Instead, the innovative assumption is the movement of turning to the hard facts, namely to the material traces of human everyday activity: we should opt out of conceptualising garbage as metaphor, as thinking or as artistic figures, in order to go down to the refuse skip. Garbage can be used as informants too. The author tried this out during his 'fieldwork' in Warsaw at Christmas time.

Author Biography

Wlodzimierz Karol Pessel

Wlodzimierz Karol Pessel (born in 1979) studied cultural sciences at the University of Warsaw. He is currently engaged in writing a doctoral thesis devoted to the cultural history of sewage and garbage collection in Warsaw during the twentieth century. He teaches anthropology and sociology of culture in the Institute of Polish Culture at the University of Warsaw. Email: wlodzimierz(AT)