“An ambitiously interdisciplinary volume offering thought-provoking new ways for considering how toxic landscapes challenge a linear, colonialist, and capitalist model of time-as-progress.”
Vivien Hamilton, coeditor of Inevitably Toxic: Historical Perspectives on Contamination, Exposure and Expertise
An interdisciplinary environmental humanities volume that explores human-environment relationships on our permanently polluted planet.
While toxicity and pollution are ever present in modern daily life, politicians, juridical systems, media outlets, scholars, and the public alike show great difficulty in detecting, defining, monitoring, or generally coming to terms with them. This volume’s contributors argue that the source of this difficulty lies in the struggle to make sense of the intersecting temporal and spatial scales working on the human and more-than-human body, while continuing to acknowledge race, class, and gender in terms of global environmental justice and social inequality.
The term toxic timescapes refers to this intricate intersectionality of time, space, and bodies in relation to toxic exposure. As a tool of analysis, it unpacks linear understandings of time and explores how harmful substances permeate temporal and physical space as both event and process. It equips scholars with new ways of creating data and conceptualizing the past, present, and future presence and possible effects of harmful substances and provides a theoretical framework for new environmental narratives. To think in terms of toxic timescapes is to radically shift our understanding of toxicants in the complex web of life.
Toxicity, pollution, and modes of exposure are never static; therefore, dose, timing, velocity, mixture, frequency, and chronology matter as much as the geographic location and societal position of those exposed. Together, these factors create a specific toxic timescape that lies at the heart of each contributor’s narrative. Contributors from the disciplines of history, human geography, science and technology studies, philosophy, and political ecology come together to demonstrate the complex reality of a toxic existence. Their case studies span the globe as they observe the intersection of multiple times and spaces at such diverse locations as former battlefields in Vietnam, aging nuclear-weapon storage facilities in Greenland, waste deposits in southern Italy, chemical facilities along the Gulf of Mexico, and coral-breeding laboratories across the world.
Simone M. Müller is the director of the DFG Emmy-Noether Research Group “Hazardous Travels: Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy” at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. As a historian and environmental humanities scholar, she works at the intersection of globalization processes, discards, and environmental justice. More info →
May-Brith Ohman Nielsen is a professor of history and history didactics at the University of Agder and project leader of the research group “Deadly Dreams: The Cultural History of Poison, 1850–2020.” Her work in environmental history and environmental humanities focuses on pesticides in social, generational, and historical contexts. Her other research areas include the history of epidemics, everyday life, and ideologies. More info →
Introduction Simone M. Müller and May-Brith Ohman Nielsen 1
Part 1 Conceptualizing the Long Term
Chapter 1 Living with Poison: Exploring Generations as Toxic Timescapes May-Brith Ohman Nielsen 21
Chapter 2 Slow Observation: Witnessing Long-Term Pollution and Environmental Racism in Cancer Alley Thom Davies
Chapter 3 When Does Safe Mean Safe? Negotiating the Disposal of Radioactive Waste between Months and Millennia Iris Borowy 72
Part 2 Ontologies of Toxic Space
Chapter 4 The Chemical Platoon, the Abandoned Base, and the Village: Human Experiences of Multiple Toxic Timescapes in Vietnam David Biggs 107
Chapter 5 Toxic Flows and Societal Exposures: The Maritime Toxic Timescape, Environmental Degradation, and Social and Political Change on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast from the 1950s Onward Anna S. Antonova 130
Chapter 6 Colonial Occupation as a Toxic Timescape in Anaiwan Country (Australia) Kate Wright 153
Part 3 Expanding upon the Toxic Body
Chapter 7 Toxic Bios: Traversing Toxic Timescapes through Corporeal Storytelling Ilenia Iengo and Marco Armiero 187
Chapter 8 Storying Toxic Timescape “Trajectories:" Intersections among Algal Toxins and More-Than-Human Bodies Jesse D. Peterson 212
Chapter 9 Embodying Fear and Toxicity: Environmental Protests against West Germany’s Final Repository for Nuclear Waste in Gorleben, 1977–1980 Astrid Mignon Kirchhof 233
Chapter 10 Toxic Timescapes and the Double Fracture of Modernity: Chlordecone Contamination of Martinique and Guadeloupe Malcom Ferdinand 253
Part 4 Conceptualizing Toxic Futures
Chapter 11 The Toxic Water Clock On the Salton Sea and Camp Century Jason R. Parry 289
Chapter 12 Decision and Radioactive Principles for the Future: Thinking the Inheritance of Nuclear Waste Repositories with Gramsci and Derrida Michael Peterson 308
Chapter 13 Speculative Conservation and Assisted Evolution: Interventions in Extinction Timescapes Anna-Katharina Laboissière 328
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