The Afterlife of Discarded Objects: Memory and Forgetting in a Culture of Waste

SKU: 978-1-64317-049-7

Andrei Guruianu and Natalia Andrievskikh

Visual Rhetoric
Edited by Marguerite Helmers

Information and Pricing
978-1-64317-049-7 (paperback, $34) 978-1-64317-050-3 (hardcover, $70) 978-1-64317-051-0 (Adobe eBook, $19.99, by CD or email) © 2019 by Parlor Press, in full color with 72 illustrations, bibliography, and index. 303 pages.

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As one of its driving principles, The Afterlife of Discarded Objects: Memory and Forgetting in a Culture of Waste analyzes the double reconstitution of discarded items. In this afterlife, discarded objects might transform from a worthless object into a plaything or a work of art, and then to an artifact marking a specific historical time period. This transformation is represented through various forms of recollection—stories, photographs, collectibles, heirlooms, monuments, and more. Shaped by nostalgia and wishful thinking, discarded objects represent what is wasted, desired, and aestheticized, existing at the intersection of individual and collective consciousness.

While The Afterlife of Discarded Objects constitutes a version of revisionist historiography through its engagement with alternative anthropological artifacts, its ambition stretches beyond that to consider how seemingly immaterial phenomena such as memory and identity are embedded in and shaped by material networks, including ephemera. Guruianu and Andrievskikh create a written, visual, and virtual playground where transnational narratives fuse into a discourse on the persistent materiality of ephemera, especially when magnified through narrative and digital embodiment.

The Afterlife of Discarded Objects is printed in full color and includes references, an index, and over seventy hi-resolution color images.

What People Are Saying

“The Afterlife of Discarded Objects: Memory and Forgetting in a Culture of Waste uses contemporary theory, literature, popular culture, and personal narratives to investigate how we assign political, socio-cultural, and aesthetic meaning to objects. The book is unique in applying personal narratives and testimonies of contributors from around the world to provide insights and critiques of Western attitudes toward these objects. The Afterlife of Discarded Objects provides transformative social commentary through scrutiny and stories of discarded/found objects in Eastern Europe and in the West encouraging us to reflect more critically on our relationships with things. The stories and theories interwoven in Guruianu and Andrievskikh’s book turn memory into matter and aspire to teach through their exploration. It’s a lofty goal, and the book succeeds.” —Sohui Lee

About the Author

Andrei Guruianu is a Senior Language Lecturer in the Expository Writing Program at New York University where he has taught introductory and advanced level composition courses since 2011. His critical and creative works often explore such topics as memory and forgetting, the role of art and of the artist, and the ability of place to shape personal and collective histories. He holds an MA in Journalism from Iona College and a PhD in English from Binghamton University.

Natalia Andrievskikh is a Language Lecturer in the Expository Writing Program at New York University where she works primarily with international students. Her research areas include contemporary British and anglophone literature, digital writing, and media and culture studies. In her creative work she explores the role of myth-making in construction and preservation of memory. She received her MA in English and PhD in Comparative Literature from Binghamton University.


Introduction: To the Reader | 1. Leopard Print Pumps and Other Instruments of Memory | 2. Between Here and Then: A Material Understanding of Time and Space | 3. Discarded Memory: History and Forgetting | 4. (Un)becoming Garbage: The Spectacle of the Archive | 5. The Abject and Fear of Social Contamination | 6. Recycling: Guilt, Fetish, or Necessity? | 7. The Ludic Potential of Found Artifacts | 8. Transgressive Art: The Aesthetics of Decay | 9. Digital Erasures: New Media and Re-enchantment with the Material World | 10. A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Imminent Catastrophe | Personal Narratives: Selected Contributions to The Afterlife of Discarded Objects | Illustrations | Works Cited | About the Authors

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