New York University anthropologist Robin Nagle has found “a gold mine for garbage pickers.” New York’s Department of Sanitation collects almost 3.5 million tons of trash each year. The contents range from discarded photos of a divorced spouse and bottles from those with a drinking problem to diapers from new babies and clothing discarded as no longer in fashion. Professor Nagle realized that she could improve understanding of our modern “thruway culture” by systematically studying this trash. She became the “anthropologist-in-residence” for the sanitation department, has worked as a regular, salaried sanitation worker, had helped to publicize the value of “the most important workers that we have in this city,” and has published books on her findings.
For Further Thought?
- What can social researchers understand about the social world by investigating this most unobtrusive of indicators?
- What problems do you suppose Professor Nagle has to overcome in this research approach.?