Knowing Fatbergs: Waste as Matter, Monster and Mystery

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Blanka Henriksson, Ann-Helen Sund
Publication year: 2019
Journal: Ethnologia Scandinavica
Volume number: 49
Start page: 162
End page: 180
eISSN: 0348-9698


In September 2017 media across the world reported news of a
discovery made in the sewers of London. A so called fatberg, consisting
of flushed down fat, wet wipes and nappies blocked the sewage system.
What was fluid had congealed, and what was hidden became visible,
provoking repulsion and a need to act forcefully. We are interested in
what happens when something hitherto hidden and unknown calls for
attention. What was discovered and disclosed in the sewers of London? By
studying media reports on the discovery of the fatberg, the
musealisation of parts of the fatberg and a subsequent TV-documentary,
we analyse what happens when waste takes the form of a monster. As the
monster is fought, conquered, exhibited, dissected and analysed,
experiences of disgust, fascination, ridicule and awe are induced.
Through such practices, the fatberg moves, resists and reveals what has
been hidden. It connects the city with bodies, carries and is carried by
heritage of an uncanny, dark, but also comical, kind. The discourses on
the fatberg form the base of our case study, where the focal point is
the encounter with a dark being, and the material, affective and moral
entanglements in different ways of handling and understanding the
consequences of our lifestyle.


Body, fatberg, monster, musealisation, urban, waste


Last updated on 2020-29-09 at 02:42