The Governance of Waste in Iqaluit, Nunavut

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Zahara, Alexander
Arctic , Waste Management
Through ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, this thesis examines the historical and contemporary governing practices that inform waste management in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I draw on governance theory to critically examine the diffuse network of power that influences waste management practices and outcomes, and that have contributed to the city’s waste issues. Like other communities in Canada’s Nunavut territory, Iqaluit lacks sophisticated technologies to manage waste and abandoned dump sites are littered throughout the city’s landscape. Across the territory, communities are concerned about their waste future. This case study of waste governance is divided into three parts. In part one, waste is examined within the wider context of colonialism and contemporary neoliberal governance practices that have contributed to what scholars are referring to as the Anthropocene. It is argued that waste itself is part of a colonial context within which Inuit and other northerners continue to live. In part two, two of Iqaluit’s ‘trash animals’-- ravens and dogs-- are examined to highlight the role of nonhumans in waste governance. It is argued that waste materially reconfigures relationships between human and nonhuman animals, and that these relationships are bequeathed to future generations. In part three, I examine the 2014 Iqaluit ‘dumpcano’ controversy, which coincided with my field season in Iqaluit. The dump fire brought to the fore a history of contaminant exposure and federal government underfunding that was differently framed and responded to by community members and government officials; while government risk management practices privileged neoliberal epistemologies and governance, active participation by Iqaluit residents placed community understandings of health, wellbeing, and sovereignty at the forefront of the ‘dumpcano’ debate. Within the context of myriad social and environmental issues, increased community growth and development, and Inuit efforts to self-determine, I suggest that improvements to Iqaluit’s waste management infrastructure should integrate supports to Inuit culture and knowledge systems. Doing so involves replacing a technical configuration of waste with one of knowing, being, and relating to others and the environment; and would help meet community goals and definitions for sustainable community development.
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