Waste, Power, and Hegemony: A Critical Analysis of the Wastescape of Sri Lanka

Randika Jayasinghe, Michael Azariadis, Caroline Baillie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the power dynamics that shape the wastescape of Sri Lanka. Using theories of power and hegemony, we investigate how the discourses of expert knowledge and formal waste management processes marginalize the discourses and practices of the informal waste sector. By analyzing these discourses and practices, we demonstrate how legitimate and authoritative knowledge is constructed. The analysis uncovered five themes that frame the dominant model of waste management in Sri Lanka: (a) the discourse of development, (b) expert systems, (c) political decision-making, (d) coercion and alienation, and (e) removal of waste. We demonstrate that small-scale informal waste management can be both a solution to Sri Lanka’s waste problem and a much needed income source for the poor. Thus, instead of alienation, coercion, and exclusion, informal waste workers should be recognized as valuable contributors of the urban wastescape to create a sustainable wastescape in the country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-195
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Environment and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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