Publication Details

Klocker, N., Mbenna, P. & Gibson, C. (2018). From troublesome materials to fluid technologies: Making and playing with plastic-bag footballs. Cultural Geographies, 25 (2), 301-318.


The material recalcitrance of plastic bags - evident in their refusal to decompose and their capacity to evade neat disposal - is a widespread source of environmental concern and frustration. Yet throughout the Majority (developing) World, the incessant materiality of plastic affords boys and young men an opportunity to make footballs (soccer balls) out of waste. Made in situ, plasticbag footballs are uniquely suited to local contexts and landscapes - a resourceful technology assembled from otherwise troublesome materials. Plastic-bag footballs are also fluid: perpetually in-the-making and characterized by diverse states of working order. Insights garnered from discussions with young Tanzanian football-makers and players position plastic-bag footballs against neocolonial discourses of poverty and precarity. Meanwhile attentiveness to the socio-material relations of plastic-bag footballs makes plain that they are not inferior technologies. Plastic-bag footballs invite consideration of how humans live, materially, in the Anthropocene. Plastic bags typify the ecological crises of throwaway consumerism and malignant toxicity. Yet, we ask: could it be that plastic-bag footballs exemplify the material resourcefulness, skill, care for things - and even playfulness - needed to cope with these very crises?.



Link to publisher version (DOI)