Summary of Trash Talks

Revelations in the Rubbish

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Trash Talks book summary
How can societies best handle the garbage that people generate on such a gargantuan scale?


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Smith College philosophy professor Elizabeth V. Spelman explores anthropology, economics, law, literature and psychology in this incisive, unconventional exploration of “trash.” Deciding what to do with the garbage that humans generate poses challenges to any society. Most people consider anything discarded as repugnant, and waste threatens the Earth’s ecosystem. Yet cultures and their garbage have an inextricable relationship. Human beings reject garbage and eject it from their lives, yet it can come back to bear witness to the kind of people they were. People also repress unpleasant thoughts or memories, as if their own experiences were trash. Though at times the author’s erudition becomes a bit overwhelming, this remains a rewarding read. getAbstract recommends Spelman’s unusual exploration of how garbage illuminates societies and the relationships within them.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What challenges societies face in dealing with their trash,
  • How garbage offers insight into the societies that produce it, and
  • How different cultures and significant thinkers view waste.


Garbage as Insight
Dealing with the garbage that humans generate challenges all societies. Human beings produce trash on such a gargantuan scale that it poses a danger to the environment. While most societies consider anything discarded as repugnant, cultures and their discards are intertwined...
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About the Author

Elizabeth V. Spelman teaches philosophy and humanities at Smith College and wrote Inessential Woman, Fruits of Sorrow: Framing Our Attention to Suffering and Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World.

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