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Sr Lecturer in Human Geography, University of the Witwatersrand

Melanie Samson is currently a Sr Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of the Witwatersrand. She previously worked for NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa), and led a research and education project on gender and waste privatization for SAMWU (South African Municipal Workers Union). Prior to joining Wits, she was the Africa Waste Sector Specialist for Women in Informal Employment, Globalizing and Organizing, where she worked with reclaimer (waste picker) organizations across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Melanie’s research interests focus on how reclaimers forge value out of waste, reclaimer dispossession and ‘integration’, the political ecology of waste, and informal worker organizing. Her research arises out of her activist work accompanying reclaimer movements. Melanie publishes in a range of academic journals including Historical Materialism; Capitalism Nature Socialism; Antipode; and International Labor and Working Class History.

Melanie recently completed a three-year research project on ‘waste picker integration’ funded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation’s Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). Melanie facilitated DEFF’s national stakeholder process to develop the Guideline on Waste Picker Integration for South Africa, and is the primary author of the Guideline.

Her publications can be found at:


  • –present
    Sr Lecturer in Human Geography; Convener of Department of Environmental Affairs National Stakeholder Process to develop National Guidelines on Waste Picker Integration , University of the Witwatersrand


  • 2015 
    York University, PhD in Political Science