This article explores how human and animal waste are circulated back into the environment in an agricultural training center in Myanmar operated by a Shinto-based Japanese NGO. Following the Shinto-inspired ecological visions of the organization, I translate Japanese aid workers’ use of the term junkangata shakai (“material-cycle society”) in an idiosyncratic way as “circulatory sociality.” I argue that the importance of the circulation of waste in this training center lay in the making of intimate relations amidst a disciplinary lifestyle as the path to a sustainable future. Thus, belonging to and participating in the intimate and totalizing experiences of a sustainable environment created not only a potential alternative to environmentally harmful human practices, but also new forms of sociality that could usher in a sustainable world. This case shows how practices of sustainability are not simply about changing production and consumption systems, but can demand profound transformations in social relations and personhood.
Chika Watanabe is Lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her research and teaching interests revolve around issues of development, humanitarianism, NGOs, religion and secularity, ethics and morality, environmental crisis, and disasters. She is currently working on a book, “Muddy Labor: Nonreligion and the Moral Imaginaries of a Japanese NGO in Myanmar.”
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Chika Watanabe; Waste, Incorporated. Gastronomica 1 November 2015; 15 (4): 6–13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2015.15.4.6
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