Scandal, Blame, and the Politics of Contamination in Peru’s Quinoa Bust

Editorial Note: This post is part of our series highlighting the work of the Anthropology and Environment Society’s 2019 Roy A. Rappaport Prize Finalists. We asked them to outline the argument they made in their submission and to situate their work in relation to the field of environmental anthropology. By Emma McDonell, University of Tennessee at […]

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Commentary: Toxic Bodies, Part II

By Kristina Lyons, University of California, Santa Cruz § The president of the communal action committee whom I call Doña Marta ushered me to a more secluded corner behind the schoolhouse. She spoke in a low tone about the worsening water quality of the river flowing behind us. Over the last four years, downstream communities in […]

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Contamination of the Social Fabric: Sápara Leaders’ Resistance to Oil Companies in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Narrow Vision of Environmental Impact Studies

By Lindsay Ofrias, Princeton University § In the shadow of the world’s worst case of oil contamination, the Sápara, a small group of indigenous people, are desperately protecting their island of pristine rainforest in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Once a nationality numbering in the tens of thousands, only a few hundred Sápara people survive today, their population […]

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Weeds, Herbicides, and Bodies: Emerging Entanglements in Toxic Agricultural Landscapes

By Tony VanWinkle, Sterling College § Dedicated to the memory of Jackie Dill. Shortly after the unexpected death of friend and mentor Jackie Dill, I read Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s poem, “The Change,” which narrates a first person, indigenous retrospective on shifts in the workaday world of tobacco field laborers. Central to this convulsive change was […]

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Commentary: Toxic Bodies, Part I

By Mónica Salas Landa, Lafayette College § ‘‘How do you feel living right across from the oil and gas complex?’’ I asked Ms. Dora, a few days after I settled into her home in Poza Rica, Veracruz, a city transformed by the industrial apparatus of oil. ‘‘We have gotten used to smelling the gas and seeing all […]

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On Contamination: Conservation Science in Devilish Landscapes

By Meredith Root-Bernstein, Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, Grignon, France § When you first see the gold mine in Alhué you are impressed by how massive the cascade of tailings is—by how many endemic trees, shrubs, bird nests, lizards and tarantulas must be crushed underneath it. When I took photos of the hills I always tried […]

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Chemical Showers: How Daily Routines Structure Our Exposures to Toxicants

By Rachael Wakefield-Rann, University of Technology Sydney § The choreography of daily life dictates how bodies are exposed to toxic chemicals. Since the 1950s, everyday consumer products from furniture, to electronics and cleaning products have become imbued with new classes of toxic chemicals. The unprecedented intimacy between industrial chemicals and human bodies in the domestic realm […]

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Ticks, Pesticides, and Biome-Subjectivity

By Abigail Dumes, University of Michigan § Fifty-five years ago, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking text that brought into view the dangers of pesticides and their overuse. In 2017, social friction in the United States over how and when and if to use pesticides has never been sharper. In the face of Trump-appointed EPA […]

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Tracing Chemical Intimacies

By Sophia Jaworski, University of Toronto § A middle-aged woman in the Greater Toronto Area wears a charcoal mask in her bedroom to prevent asthma spurred by breathing in the circulation of floor varnish, cigarette smoke, and cleaning chemicals in an apartment building air vent. Needing to wear the mask is intimately tied to shortness of […]

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