lundi 21 septembre 2020

Histoires de toxicité

Histories of toxicity, pollution, and the environment in the Global South

Call for papers

We invite papers that focus on the environment, in the context of toxicity and pollution across the global south for the European Society for Environmental History, to be held in Bristol in 2021. Agrarian, urban, industrial, and other landscapes across the global south are experiencing increasing levels of pollution. Urban environments for instance, have witnessed the polluting of water bodies and toxic air. Industrial effluents and pesticides are well known contaminants of vast swathes of land across southern contexts. This panel argues for an environmental history of pollution and toxicity that intersects with questions of infrastructure, non-human agency, Anthropogenic and geological change and identity.

· Infrastructural systems, such as canals, power plants and ports have all been the source and conduits of toxicity. Yet, these systems produce a field of politics and are ensconced within the lands, waters and other elements that they occupy.

· Pollutants rarely affect only humans, but have far wider ramifications on animals, flora and fauna. They interact with the non-human world in complex ways, having unknown effects and create new phenomena.

· Long term studies of pollutants and toxins can reveal that their effects are not merely localized, but have planetary implications. This could be in terms of the long durée’, globalization of a pollutant or the replication of a phenomenon.

· Toxicity and pollution are shaped through class, gender, race and caste. Both are categories used as forms of stigma, to create inequity.

· Toxicants and pollutants can cause damage to environments and bodies in incremental, gradual ways that may be invisible or difficult to measure without necessary scientific instruments. This uncertainty underlines how access to resources enables the visibility of toxicity and pollution as well as its origin.

· The establishment of standardised regulations of toxicity and pollution as well as their compliance in the Global North was often possible because of their contravention in the Global South, further alerting us to the geographical unevenness of the Anthropocene in its historical entanglement with colonialism and global capitalism.

Confirmed panelists

Mattin Biglari’s paper will examine toxicity and the regulatory standards of occupational exposure at the Abadan oil refinery, c. 1950. It pays special attention to air pollution and controversies surrounding gas leaks of sulphur dioxide, showing how workers understood the incremental damage to their bodies that it caused and how the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s global operations benefited from this localised ‘slow violence’.

Aditya Ramesh’s paper looks at the history of urban rivers in Madras, a colonial port city located in the southeastern India. Tracing the history of the Cooum river, from 1850 to 1960, it examines the long and slow history of pollution, toxicity and social life around the river. It argues that the river emerged as commons in two kinds of ways. First, as a common sink for industries, agrarian landlords and urban home-owners to direct their waste into. Second, as nebulous land upon which the urban poor could settle, and establish precarious life of dwelling and earning livelihoods.

Please do write to in case you are interested in being a part of the panel.

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