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Biotrash: The Urban Metabolism of Medical Garbage in India

OSU-CHR Seminar:
Sarah Hodges, University of Warwick.
Biotrash: The Urban Metabolism of Medical Garbage in India

Is a brisk resale market in used disposable syringes a dividend of India’s new economy?

In this talk I explore the economic afterlives of what modern medicine routinely discards —things like used syringes, plastic tubing, and emptied blood bags. I tell the stories of Chennai’s biotrash buyers and sellers and their quest to move biotrash across their city and across the globe.

Using these accounts of medical garbage on its journey from waste to resource—from hospital corridors to urban scrap markets and beyond—in this talk I also tell a larger story that connects India, globalization and modern medicine during a celebrated chapter of India’s recent history. Since the 1980s, India has experienced significant economic growth alongside new policies of market liberalisation. By tracking the everyday detritus of India’s modern medical practice, this book illuminates the central role of biomedical science in the making of a new, global India, as well as the sinews that connect India’s recent success to its constitutive underside.

See the Center for Historical Research website for more information on events.