Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

John Paul Jones III

Second Advisor

Susan M. Roberts


This dissertation analyzes the politics of garbage in Oaxaca, Mexico. In particular, it explores the tactics used by a marginalized colonia near the dump to affect waste management and local development. This colonia provokes garbage crises by blocking the metropolitan areas access to its dump. As a result, garbage builds up in the city and public officials are forced to negotiate with colonia residents. I argue that two prior processes are essential to the success of this strategy. First, the mid-sized city in southern Mexico implemented many new waste management practices during the latter half of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st in order to produce an image of a clean and modern city for residents and tourists. While the city tried to modernize by increasing the level of sanitation, a concomitant increase in consumerism meant that it was impossible for this clean and modern city to be produced on the ground. Nevertheless, these contradictory processes made cleanliness the marker of urban modernity. Therefore, garbage in the city can undermine the legitimacy of modern urban institutions, as it does in the case of the garbage crises. Second, a process of modern citizen-formation was underway wherein an association with garbage identified one as outsider. In this way, garbage crises are struggles over citizenship and belonging.