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Dr Declan Murray


PDRA in the Department of Anthropology


I am interested in how things become waste, how people relate to and interact with waste and what happens to the materials and objects we use once they are discarded.

My doctoral thesis: "Fixing Development: Breakdown, repair and disposal in Kenya's off-grid solar markets" followed off-grid solar products from design to dump via sites of use, repair, and recycling. I argue that companies and organisations working in International Development to provide universal energy access via solar products are attempting to "fix" the world. These attempts fail however because their approach to repairing the world is that of the ingénieur (an imposed blueprint) rather than the bricoleur (drawing on local and historical resources).

I am currently working on plastic waste in Blantyre, Malawi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I am tracing the journeys that plastics make through urban spaces and how they become waste, stuck in drains contributing to localised flooding or harbouring harmful viruses. This is part of a £3.4m project called Sustainable Plastic Attitudes to benefit Communities and their Environments (SPACES) funded by the National Environment Research Council (NERC).

Research interests

  • Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania
  • Repair, mending, fixing
  • Waste, discards and rubbish