Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Gabriel D. Straus. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Farha Ghannam


What’s at stake in people’s relationships with objects? I examine this question based on two months of in-depth participant observation and twelve semi-structured interviews with artists from RAIR, an artist residency at a Philadelphia dump, where artists make work out of the discarded material fabric of a gentrifying, deindustrializing city (read: demolished buildings/dead peoples’ stuff). Building on the work of Karen Barad, a physicist-turned-philosopher who outlines an “onto epistemology” based on quantum mechanics, I explore how objects and people “intra-act” at RAIR to refigure time, reshape the city, and redefine the human. I demonstrate how a Baradian agential realist reading captures dynamics missed by both existing anthropologies of waste and other “new materialisms.” My analysis suggests, however, that we need a stronger ethic of accountability than Barad’s reading implies—one that centers social inequalities in our understanding of human/non-human relationships.