Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


VIRTUAL: IAS/Urban Lab Waste: Art and The Toxic Politics of Waste - Lebanon and Palestine

03 December 2020, 7:00 pm–8:00 pm

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Discover more about inspiring waste activism in the Middle East and explore how political forces affect the possibility of a greener future.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Bertha DocHouse

Urban Lab Films, The Institute of Advanced Studies and Bertha DocHouse present a screening and moderated discussion on two recent short films from the Middle East, to examine the role of academic and artistic production in challenging knowledge and inspiring activism around waste and toxicity.

We will consider the links between contamination caused by waste and toxic politics to discuss how different forms of knowledge production can account for the often complex trajectories of rubbish, its slow and difficult-to-trace impact, and the complexity of political forces at play.

This live Q&A event will be taking place on the 3rd Dec at 7pm GMT. The docs will be available for ticket holders on demand, between 7pm on the 1st Dec and the live Q&A on 3rd Dec, accessible worldwide. 

About the films

Kink Retrograde (2019; 19’) by Lebanese artist Bassem Saad, and Waste Underground (2017; 15’) by anthropologist Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins and Palestinian cinematographer Ali Aldeek, focus respectively on the ‘garbage crisis’ plaguing Lebanon since 2015 and the role of waste in Palestine under occupation.

The films engage in different ways with the links between spaces contaminated by waste and toxic political systems and will allow us to consider how value chains and waste circulations are entangled across the Global North / South divide.

All welcome. An event link will be posted on this webpage.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance on the day, and follow this FAQ link for more information and to read our virtual events code of conduct. All of our events are free, but you can support the IAS here.

About the Speakers

Bassem Saad

Bassem Saad is an artist and writer trained in architecture. His work explores objects and operations that distribute violence, pleasure, welfare, and waste. Through video, sculpture, and writing, he investigates and records strategies for manoeuvring within and beyond governance systems.

More about Bassem Saad

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins is a cultural anthropologist and an Assistant Professor at Bard College, whose monograph Waste Siege was published with Stanford University Press in 2020. Waste Underground emerges from her fieldwork on efforts to bury Palestinian wastes in the West Bank.

More about Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins

Elizabeth Saleh

Elizabeth Saleh works in the fields of political and economic anthropology with a special focus on waste, agriculture, labour and gender. She currently works as an assistant professor in Anthropology at the American University of Beirut.


Hanna Baumann

Hanna Baumann (chair) is a Senior Research Fellow at The Bartlett's Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL. Her research is concerned with the role of infrastructures in urban conflict, exclusion and displacement.