How might waste present insights into our understanding of life and death in the present context of the ‘postcolonial’ condition? By extension, can waste offer a map to understand the complexity of coloniality within the postcolonial state? Thus, can the intransigence of coloniality in its multifarious forms be overcome in both postcolonial and postimperial contexts? What does the coloniality in post-‘coloniality’ signify? Do the ‘post’ in postcolonial and the ‘colonial’ in postcolonial share equal power? Of interest here is the obstinacy of coloniality and how its slippery nature leaves little room for queer possibility in a ‘life’ governed by global racial capitalism. To ‘exist’ in our present order of things, which is a global-hetero-sexist-racist capitalist order, is to reckon with how a queer possibility unmoored from the trappings of racial capitalism is impossible. Otu argues that it is precisely this impossibility that makes ‘death’ a queer possibility. Drawing on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork on e-waste work in Ghana and charting how our relation to ‘waste’ under the aegis of racial capital registers our antipathy to death, Otu argues that waste’s anti-normative (against life) tendency makes ‘life’ normative in ways that render or provide frames for comprehending death both as possibly queer and a queer possibility. To this end, Otu weaves together writings from a host of African and African diasporic intellectuals and artists. First, meditations from Sylvia Wynter on the coloniality of being, Ayi Kwei Armah on waste topologies, and Amilcar Cabral on class suicidation. These interventions are put in conversation with analyses of the productions of two Ghanaian artists, Ibrahim Mahama and Serge Attukwei Clottey, which embody what Otu calls stitching topographies. Arguably, these artistic and intellectual provocations offer insights into death as queer possibility.


Kwame Edwin Otu is an Associate Professor in the African Studies Program at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Otu is a cultural anthropologist with interests ranging from the politics of sexual, environmental, and technological citizenships and public health to their intersections with shifting racial formations in neocolonial and neoliberal Africa and the African Diaspora. Otu’s first book monograph, Amphibious Subjects: Sasso and the Contested Politics of Queer Self-Making in Neoliberal Ghana, is part of the New Sexual Worlds Series edited by Marlon Bailey and Jeffrey McCune and is published by the University of California Press. The book is an ethnography on queer self-fashioning among a community of self-identified effeminate men, known in local parlance as sasso. In the monograph, he draws on African philosophy, African/Black feminisms, and African and African Diasporic literature to explore how sasso navigate homophobia and the increased visibility of LGBT human rights politics in neoliberal Ghana. Otu’s current/ongoing project investigates the global politics of e-waste in particular, and the undulations of global environmental transitions in general, and their impacts on African and African-descended bodies. Entitled The Salvage Slot: Technology and the Ecologies of the After-Afterlife, it is an ethnography on waste workers on an e-waste dump in Agbogbloshie, Ghana, that investigates Africa’s paradoxical location as a site of extraction and deposition.

In English
Organized by

Mark Anthony Cayanan, Maria Dębińska, Moritz Gansen, Ruth Ramsden-Karelse, and Ben Woodard

An ICI Event in cooperation with diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery

How to Attend
  • At the venue registration will open on 28 May 2024

The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin.
If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.

Image credit: Herman Rhoids /