Robin Nagle has been the anthropologist-in-residence at the Department of Sanitation in New York City since 2006.
Nagle's fascination with trash stems from her desire to understand the all-too-often invisible infrastructure that guides the flow of garbage through a megalopolis like New York. After all, the city produces 11,000 tons of rubbish each day... and all of that has to be dealt with somewhere and by someone. If not, damaging health problems and consequences for all. So why do sanitation workers experience such stigma, all too often scorned and berated while on the job? Nagle, who is also director of NYU's Draper Interdisciplinary Master's program in humanities and social thought, determined to find out. She got her sanitation worker license and has spent much time with workers on the job, getting an up-close view of the city's garbage and the systems in place to deal with it.
Her book, Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City was published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. See also the profile of her work -- and a photoessay of her favorite places in New York City.