World Environment Day - How our graduate students are contributing to complex societal issues

Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Effects of Plastic on our Environment

Marie Lecuyer Masters' student at the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies researches the effects of plastic on our environment.

Tell me about your journey

My journey is a journey of convolutions and detours, which eventually led me to anthropology. I began my studies in communication sciences and then turned to political science. I then found myself in anthropology and ended liking it, because in this discipline, it seemed I could rally theoretical, poetic and political interests.

What motivated or inspired you to do research on the he environment?

It is difficult to trace back to an origin. I first thought of several topics before I became interested in plastic pollution. At the beginning I wanted to work on radiotoxicity, then I started doing research on oils and I ended up looking into one of its concretions: plastic. The idea of ​​pollution underlies these various attempts at research. I considered pollution as a form of diffuse violence, whose referent, and therefore responsibility, are dissolved. This dissolution makes this form of violence or control, all the more difficult to define and therefore to parry, concretely. What interests me in this research is also the infra-dimensional dimension in the sense that the presence of plastic is trivialized, normalized and yet its effects are consistent, on a scale that transcends borders. This research on plastic pollution calls into question classical concepts in political theory such as that of boundaries, but also of community, for example. I also integrate a multi-media dimension, hoping perhaps to express more than to explain what being in the world at a time known as "Plasticene" (in reference to the Anthropocene and a petromodern regime) may mean.

Why is your research important in today’s society?

At a time, which I call "plastification of the world", characterized by saturation due to overproduction and overconsumption of plastic, the presence of the latter in the state of waste is problematic because its durations exceeds ours by far. The decomposition mode of the plastic is very slow and more photodegradable than biodegradable. I therefore think it is important to study the trends that led to this era in order to contemplate, or at least to reconsider, the environmental policies to be deployed. This research actually suggests that if there is an environmental catastrophe, because of the accumulation and hyperpresence of plastic, the catastrophe is in fact at the level of the relationship between society and the state, and the erosion of the latter's responsibility as well as the plastic industry. By studying the circulation of plastic waste and the recycling system that acts as a point of inflection where the depotentialised object becomes waste is repotentialised to be reinstated in an economic system, then I will be able to better understandwhat and who this system feeds, and to what extent it contributes to a (de) pollution effort.” 

What would you like to see or accomplish in the future?

What I would like to share in this research is perhaps the idea of political commitment, or "response-ability" as Donna Haraway says, and thus reflect for a moment on these daily gestures which also testify to an intention, of an ethical posture. Each of our gestures somehow constitutes an act of faith in a political and economic system. They thus generate and maintain a mode of existence. If this research has theoretical objectives as well as aesthetic intentions, which have certainly also very concrete effects, it has no pretensions of a moral nature, nor is it intended to be tragic. It will in fact be an invitation to epistemological and ontological reflexivity.


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