Precarious Life and Subversive Potential


Presented in the 10th Conference of the Pacific Rim Community Design Network: Agency and Resilience (15-17 December 2016 at CUHK)

Precarious Life and Subversive Potential: Nanjido Landfill (1978-1993) in Seoul

Jeong Hye Kim
The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Abstract en


The Nanjido landfill in Seoul was a habitation landfill where over 4,000 people with diverse backgrounds gathered to find economic opportunities and settled in or near the landfill site. This study examines the Nanjido landfill community’s housing conditions and work (garbage collecting) patterns, through which to explore a potential self-help and self-organising living environment. It aims to address the borderline characteristics of the landfill community and its consequent precarious living environment as well as its disruptive and subversive potential.

First, landfill as the site of refuse, or the territory bordered from that of usefulness, is essentially not allowed to be blended with the alleged normal residence in the city. Inhabiting in the landfill itself is, thus, an invasion into the prohibited zone and subversive act against the existing norm of bordering between the valuable and the valueless. Meanwhile, the landfill residents’ housing conditions is related to the dwellers’ voluntary and ad hoc management of their own living environment, which manifests a potential self-help, self-organisation of community. Second, garbage collecting has dual aspects: it is recycling (returning to normal society) and an act of scavenging (disrupting the separated waste by the norm of a society). Garbage collecting is, in this sense, a practice of re-ordering (of recycling) through dis-ordering (of scavenging), harboring inherent conflict in it. Through these examination, this study attempts to demonstrate that the precarious living environment, derived from the borderline characteristics, will lead us to reconsider the sense of security and resilient living in the urban context.

Keywords: landfill, habitation, self-organisation, precariousness, disruption





2016 Pacific Rim Community Design Network_Conference_Proceedings

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