SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Ringing garbage in contemporary Taiwan: From cockroaches to Beethoven and beyond

Nancy Guy 240 186 56
Speaker: Prof Nancy Guy

Date: 17 March 2016Time: 7:30 PM

Finishes: 17 March 2016Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT

Type of Event: Special Lecture


Garbage trucks in Taiwan are musical. Beethoven's Für Elise or Badarzewska's Maiden's Prayer announce the garbage truck brigade's arrival at designated times and places throughout urban areas. Residents stream into the street for a turn at depositing their presorted waste into the proper receptacles. Taiwan's semi-tropical climate combined with a densely situated human population, and the presence of well-established rat and cockroach populations, combine to make garbage management a matter of daily urgency. Garbage is at the center of a musical assemblage that resonates beyond the confines of the nightly waste collection soundscape. Due in part to its unique garbage collection practices, Taiwan has been notably successful at achieving what escapes most developing nations: the more prosperous Taiwan becomes, the less garbage it produces. In this paper, I take pop songs from the early 1980s through to the present as evidence of ways in which everyday habits and practices of reckoning with waste have seeped into a wide range of sensibilities in Taiwan.

Speaker's Bio

Nancy Guy is an ethnomusicologist whose broad interests include the musics of Taiwan and China, varieties of opera (including European and Chinese genres), music and politics, and the ecocritical study of music. Her first book Peking Opera and Politics in Taiwan (University of Illinois Press, 2005) won the ASCAP Béla Bartók Award for Excellence in Ethnomusicology and was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title for 2006" by Choice. Guy's second book, The Magic of Beverly Sills, focuses on the artistry and appeal of the beloved American coloratura soprano, and was published by University of Illinois Press in 2015. Guy is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

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