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The paper traces the journey of a banal bundle of hair from India, as it is rescued from annihilation and drawn into a multibillion-dollar global hair industry. Such is the suction power of capitalism that every potential place for recovering value is tapped for its yield. From the temple grounds in South India to the gutters of North India, hair is raked up, mopped up and pulled up the commodity chain. Yet the spectacular rise in the hair’s value is at odds with the stagnant conditions of those who handle it. The paper examines the journey of hair as it travels in a wider global economy of discarded materials, which are recovered and transformed in a complex process of establishing value. Importantly, however, the case of hair also reveals a complex waste-chain, and the way we might re-think waste: typically seen as discarded and valueless materials, which is expelled in order to maintain social order. Drawing on Fieldwork in North India, the paper traces the Indian waste-hair trail, exploring the tensions between waste and value, gifts and commodities, and the construction of personhood in Indian society.
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