Cinematic affect and the ethics of waste | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1474-2756
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0578



This article considers questions of affect and ethics in relation to three films about waste: Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners and I (1999), Lucy Walker’s Waste Land (2010), and Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009). Drawing from new materialist models, the article situates the ethical import of these very different films in relation to the way that they present waste as a vibrant and affectively charged medium through which we might rethink relations between people and things. It argues that a careful evaluation of the way these films generate and manage affect is crucial to an understanding of the kinds of ethical work each might be said to perform. While The Gleaners and I and Waste Land emphasize the uplifting feelings that can be generated from trash if we learn to see it differently, Trash Humpers rejects the activist, humanist ethos of Varda’s and Walker’s films in favour of an avant-garde impulse to degrade and defile. However, despite its nihilistic approach to its subject matter, this article argues that Trash Humpers’ feel-bad aesthetic does not rule out the possibility of ethical engagement. Rather, it offers important insights about the role of negative affect within an ethics of waste.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): affect; ethics; feel-bad cinema; Harmony Korine; new materialism; waste
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