Toxic Bodies

“A pigeon trap”. By Provincial Archives of Alberta. (No restrictions,

Epigenetics, developmental biology, and feminist science and technology studies teach us that organisms are not merely affected by their environment—they are co-constituted by it, in deep dialogue. What, then, does it mean to be human in the abundant presence of human-produced toxins? From Bisphenol A (BPA) to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to glyphosate and many more, the efflorescence of 20th century toxins settles into humans and their companion species. Here, we take an expanded notion of toxicity. Think cancers and endocrine disruption from chemical compounds, but also asthma from auto emissions—or type-2 diabetes (and the glucose toxicity that accelerates it) from industrial-scale sugar production. What might environmental anthropology teach us about how to reckon with the biology, politics, and intimacy of toxicity? What forms of care and disfigurement are engendered by toxic modernity—what social categories and storytelling practices, what kinds of landscapes and institutions, what modalities of multispecies love and subjection?

Inspired by Nancy Langston’s recent book, Toxic Bodies, as well as other recent writing on the medical and environmental anthropology of toxicity, the posts in this two-part thematic series explore these questions by considering the lived experience of people and environments encountered by anthropologists in the field. Commentaries are provided by Prof. Kristina Lyons and Prof. Mónica Salas-Landa.

Series Posts:

Part I
Spirit, Monster, Table and Tongue
by Caroline Merrifield
Tracing Chemical Intimacies
by Sophia Jaworski
Ticks, Pesticides, and Biome-Subjectivity
by Abigail Dumes
Chemical Showers: How Daily Routines Structure Our Exposures to Toxicants
by Rachael Wakefield-Rann
In Search of the Toxic Berry Patch
by Janelle Baker
On Tricking Ducks: Industrial Naturecultures and the Toxic Bodies in Oil Sands Country
by Whitney Larratt-Smith
Toxic Bodies, Part I
by Mónica Salas-Landa
Part II
On Contamination: Conservation Science in Devilish Landscapes
by Meredith Root-Bernstein
Weeds, Herbicides, and Bodies: Emerging Entanglements in Toxic Agricultural Landscapes
by Tony VanWinkle
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
Pacific Salmon Declines and the Thread-Bare Promisees of Modernity
by Neil Nunn
Toxic Bodies, Part II
by Kristina Lyons

Read the original call for posts here.