Living on the margins: Dumpster diving for food as a critical practice

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Dumpster diving for food implies using discarded edibles found in waste containers behind supermarkets, for example. People who voluntarily engage in this activity suggest that it is a form of hands-on social critique. In this article, we use interview materials to describe and conceptualize this practice. The main question we pose is: in what way is voluntary dumpster diving a ‘critical practice’? Drawing on the pragmatic sociology of critique, we show how it is a question of an entangled practice in multiple ways: first, dumpster diving is at once a means of contestation and experimentation on the limits of the contemporary form of life and yet simply a way of getting food for free or having fun with friends; second, while being a thoroughly rational endeavour for its practitioners, the activity is simultaneously rife with affect; finally, although dumpster divers are fully aware that they are dependent on the capitalistic form of food supply, the practice allows them to challenge its institutional self-evidences and distance themselves from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-463
JournalDistinktion: Journal of Social Theory
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Dumpster diving
  • critique
  • pragmatic sociology of critique
  • waste
  • consumption
  • reason
  • Affect

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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