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Lecture: The Garbage Problem - 1880-1910

Event Details

March 2, 2017
3:00 pm

Integrative Learning Center

Room: N400

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission
Justin Burch

Patricia Strach presents her talk “The Garbage Problem: Corruption, Capacity and Access in Four American Cities, 1880-1910.”

As populations grew rapidly in American cities during the late-nineteenth century, so did waste. Trash filled yards, vacant lots, and city streets. At the same time, municipal governments—best poised to address this problem—were often corrupt, though in different ways. So, how did different forms of corruption affect what governments chose to do? And, what was the impact of their actions on democratic governance?  The garbage problem inconvenienced and vexed nineteenth-century Americans, but this municipal challenge provides an unparalleled opportunity for contemporary scholars to understand how different forms of corruption affect capacity and access. 

In this paper we look at four cities—Pittsburgh, Charleston, New Orleans, and St. Louis—that were in principle democratic, but in practice were ruled by informal (corrupt) governing systems, which had greater or lesser ability to accomplish policy objectives (capacity), and which shaped social order and access (access). We show that decision making around garbage collection and disposal was influenced by informal governing systems, creating more or less functional trash capacity and shaping whose voice was heard. 

Patricia Strach is associate professor in the department of political science and public administration and policy at the University at Albany and Deputy Director for Research at the Rockefeller Institute of Government (SUNY). She is the author of “Hiding Politics in Plain Sight: Cause Marketing, Corporate Influence, and Breast Cancer Policy making,”(Oxford 2016) and “All in the Family: The Private Roots of American Public Policy” (Stanford 2007). She is currently working on a new book--“Trash: Politics, Power, and Corruption in American Cities”-about nineteenth-century garbage collection and disposal. In 2008-2010 she was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University. Strach received her doctorate in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004.

Talk co-sponsorships: UMass Department of History, UMass Department of Political Science, UMass Institute for Social Science Research.



The Integrative Learning Center is located in the center of campus, between the campus pond and the Campus Center.

Event Category

Lecture/Talk/Panel History