Excavating Robotic Waste: Neo-Tokyo and Beyond.

Peter Wynn Kirby, Site, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford [About | Email]

Volume 22, Issue 3 (Discussion Paper 4 in 2022). First published in ejcjs on 17 December 2022.


This unconventional article employs graphic art and a relatively omnivorous set of intellectual and cultural inspirations to interpret droids, drones, resources, space exploration, and what might befall the human species as the planet changes and technology continues along its accelerating arc. Amid all this serious rumination over robots, development, and the implications of environmental and industrial policy in Japan and China in particular, the piece offers glimpses of fragmentary lurid scenes from movies and overheard snatches of dialogue involving robots and the future, which are interspersed throughout much of the text. In this way, the article looks at robots, culture, and environmental shift while remaining open to the subjectivities and lively mnemonic substrate from which they are, in a sense, inextricable.

Keywords: Robots, sustainability, recycling, waste management, futurology

Editor's Note

At the request of the author, we are presenting this discussion paper in a special format.

Please click here to view and download the article in PDF format. Please also note that our servers may occasionally be slow; we recommend saving and reading the PDF as a local file, rather than in a browser.

When citing this discussion paper, please refer to the publication information at the top of this page, or linking to this URL.

About the Author

Peter Wynn Kirby is an environmental specialist, ethnographer, and lifetime Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK; he is also an Overseas Visiting Fellow at Shanghai University. Peter holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. He has held tenured or full-time permanent positions at several international universities and has been invited to take up visiting posts at the University of Tokyo, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, New York University, and elsewhere. Peter has published two books (Boundless Worlds, 2009; Troubled Natures: Waste Environment, Japan, 2011) and numerous articles on topics related to environment, space/movement, and material conversions—everything from recycled plastic to reprocessed radioactive matter. He also disseminates his research in such publications as The New York Times, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, and elsewhere.

Email the author

Back to top