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Islands Under Erasure: Wasteland and the Beginning, and Possible End, of American Empire

Joshua Reno
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Binghamton University

Paper abstract: This paper uses the concept of wasteland to compare US imperial occupation of the Chagos Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean, with the 19th origins of American empire in the Caribbean and Pacific
as part of the great guano rush. Combining insights from political ecology, postcolonial criticism and critical military studies, the representational practice of wastelanding—of wilding, contaminating, and claiming territory—is shown to be central to American hegemony, both historically and in the present day; yet this practice is also tied to metabolic rifts that place military and economic dominance at risk.

Joshua O. Reno is an Associate Professor at Binghamton University. Most of his work focuses on various types of waste, mammalian, municipal and, most recently, militaristic, particularly their
significance for political economy and their emergent entanglement with human and non- human life. With Catherine Alexander he co-edited Economies of Recycling (2012). His ethnography Waste Away is based on
a large landfill in the rural outskirts of Detroit. He is in the process of writing a new book on the waste of the American military industrial complex, based on research with abandoned and reused military equipment and forgotten sites of destructive creation.

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