Article Alert for Discard Studies! (August 2016)

Since discard studies doesn’t have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article alert, please contact Max Liboiron:

Bolton, M., Froese, S., & Jeffrey, A. (2016).“Go get a job right after you take a bath”: Occupy Wall Street as Matter Out of Place  Antipode: 857-876.
Anthropological studies of purity reveal how notions of cleanliness influence political and social life. During its 2011 Zuccotti Park occupation in Lower Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) contested spatial and symbolic manifestations of neoliberalism by re-inserting Otherness into sanitized and privatized space. But the demonstration provoked reactions from politicians and news media that entwined discourses of cleanliness and productivity (such as Newt Gingrich’s riposte to the protestors: “Go get a job right after you take a bath”). This ethnographic study argues that such representations had spatial and political effects. In particular, our account illuminates the plural agency of Occupiers, where resistance to depictions of dirt and idleness existed alongside the use of such discourses to discipline each other. We trace a discursive legacy of these events as notions of productivity and cleanliness have circulated within activist responses to 2012’s Superstorm Sandy and the 2014 Flood Wall Street mobilization.

Cram, S. (2016). Living in Dose: Nuclear Work and the Politics of Permissible Exposure. Public Culture, 28(3 80), 519-539.
This article explores the politics of permissible exposure for US nuclear workers. I argue that despite recent efforts to improve regulations for occupational radiation protection, the federal government has been unable to solve the fundamental paradox of nuclear safety: that some level of exposure is unavoidable when working with nuclear materials and that any level of exposure comes with an associated biological risk. In short, injury is an operational necessity of nuclear industry. Thus nuclear safety can never mean total protection for workers—it can only ever be the level of exposure that has been deemed acceptable relative to the benefits of radiation. In this article, I trace the historical development and daily life of this cost-benefit calculus. I consider how acceptable risk frames exposure as integral to economic development and national security, normalizing nuclear injury as an unfortunate, yet necessary, part of modern life and work.

Foley, E. (2016). “Hanford Idyll. The New Inquiry.
Excerpt: Today’s civil and nuclear military landscape is experiencing a strange Cold War afterlife, defined by a collapsed vision of a future where the constant production of nuclear weapons was the only possible guarantee of peace. The nuclear age as such is far from over, and who gets to produce and maintain nuclear weapons is still a fundamental issue in international politics. Post-Cold War localized nuclear disasters have shifted the imagination of nuclear danger closer to home. This in turn has prompted an international effort to reimagine a livable future around and alongside the instrumentalized threat of nuclear catastrophe.

McGranahan, Carole. “Theorizing Refusal: An Introduction.” Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 3 (2016): 319–325.
To refuse is to say no. But, no, it is not just that. To refuse can be generative and strategic, a deliberate move toward one thing, belief, practice, or community and away from another. Refusals illuminate limits and possibilities, especially but not only of the state and other institutions. And yet, refusal cannot be cast merely as a response to authority, or an updated version of resistance, or a concept to subsume under already existing scholarly categories. Instead, the contributors to this Openings collection find refusal to be about the social as much as the political, to be a concept in dialogue with exchange and equality.

Mukherjee, R. (2016). Toxic Lunch in Bhopal and Chemical Publics. Science, Technology & Human Values, 0162243916645196.
On November 28, 2009, as part of events marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, gas survivors protested the contents of the report prepared by government scientists that mocked their complaints about contamination. The survivors shifted from the scientific document to a mediated lunch invitation performance, purporting to serve the same chemicals as food that the report had categorized as having no toxic effects. I argue that the lunch spread, consisting of soil and water from the pesticide plant, explicitly front-staged and highlighted the survivor’s forced intimate relationship with such chemicals, in order to reshape public perception of risks from toxins. Chemical matter like sevin tar and naphthol tar bound politicians, scientists, corporations, affected communities, and activists together, as these stakeholders debated the potential effects of toxic substances. This gave rise to an issue-based “chemical public.” Borrowing from such theoretical concepts as “ontologically heterogeneous publics” and “agential realism,” I track the existing and emerging publics related to the disaster and the campaigns led by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal advocacy group.
Ramirez-Andreotta, M. D., Lothrop, N., Wilkinson, S. T., Root, R. A., Artiola, J. F., Klimecki, W., & Loh, M. (2016). Analyzing patterns of community interest at a legacy mining waste site to assess and inform environmental health literacy efforts. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 1-13.
Understanding a community’s concerns and informational needs is crucial to conducting and improving environmental health research and literacy initiatives. We hypothesized that analysis of community inquiries over time at a legacy mining site would be an effective method for assessing environmental health literacy efforts and determining whether community concerns were thoroughly addressed. Through a qualitative analysis, we determined community concerns at the time of being listed as a Superfund site. We analyzed how community concerns changed from this starting point over the subsequent years, and whether: (1) communication materials produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other media were aligned with community concerns; and (2) these changes demonstrated a progression of the community’s understanding resulting from community involvement and engaged research efforts. We observed that when the Superfund site was first listed, community members were most concerned with USEPA management, remediation, site-specific issues, health effects, and environmental monitoring efforts related to air/dust and water. Over the next 5 years, community inquiries shifted significantly to include exposure assessment and reduction methods and issues unrelated to the site, particularly the local public water supply and home water treatment systems. Such documentation of community inquiries over time at contaminated sites is a novel method to assess environmental health literacy efforts and determine whether community concerns were thoroughly addressed.

Schulz, Y. (2016). “Toxic E-Waste, Oriented Science.” Toxic News.
What struck me is the confidence with which scientists spoke of pollutants’ presence, origins and effects in and close to “informal” dismantling sites. Many of them took for granted that DEEDs represent a highly toxic material stock/flow that accounts — if not fully, then at least to a great extent — for the pollution measured in the local ground, air and water, as well as in the tissues of (mainly human) animals and plants living in those areas.  […] Scientists’ steadfastness contrasted with my experience on the field, in particular with the fuzzy picture that resulted from my attempts to investigate the scale and effects of pollution. In interviews, for instance, local inhabitants gave widely varying accounts of the ways in which pollution impacted their lives (Lora-Wainwright 2013). This discrepancy intrigued me and prompted me to reflect on the conditions in which a science of e-waste toxicity is produced.

Shamasunder, B., & Morello-Frosch, R. (2016). Scientific contestations over “toxic trespass”: health and regulatory implications of chemical biomonitoring. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.
Biomonitoring has chronicled hundreds of synthetic chemicals in human bodies. With the proliferation of biomonitoring studies from diverse stakeholders comes the need to better understand the public health consequences of synthetic chemical exposures. Fundamental disagreements among scientific experts as to the nature and purpose of biomonitoring data guide our investigation in this paper. We examine interpretations of biomonitoring evidence through interviews with 42 expert scientists from industry, environmental health and justice movement organizations (EHJM), academia, and regulatory agencies and through participant observation in scientific meetings where biomonitoring evidence is under debate. Both social movements and industry stakeholders frame the meaning of scientific data in ways that advance their own interests. EHJM scientists argue that biomonitoring data demonstrates involuntary “toxic trespass” and underscores a policy failure that allows for the pervasive use of untested chemicals. Industry scientists seek to subsume biomonitoring data under existing regulatory risk assessment paradigms. Our analysis reveals one area of convergence (validity of Centers for Disease Control surveillance data) and seven areas of contestation regarding the scientific, public health, and policy implications of biomonitoring evidence, among regulatory, industry, and EHJM scientists including: chemical presence in bodies, biological mechanisms of health impact, use of biomonitoring equivalents, limits of targeted biomonitoring, limits of detection, policy influence of advocacy biomonitoring, and relevance of biomonitoring to motivate policy change. These areas of scientific contestation provide insight into the persistent challenges of regulating chemicals even in the midst of mounting evidence of widespread exposure to multiple compounds with implications for human health.

Stokes, L. C., & Selin, N. E. (2016). The mercury game: evaluating a negotiation simulation that teaches students about science-policy interactions. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 1-9.
Environmental negotiations and policy decisions take place at the science-policy interface. While this is well known within academic literature, it is often difficult to convey how science and policy interact to students in environmental studies and sciences courses. We argue that negotiation simulations, as an experiential learning tool, are one effective way to teach students about how science and policy interact in decision-making. We developed a negotiation simulation, called the mercury game, based on the global mercury treaty negotiations. To evaluate the game, we conducted surveys before and after the game was played in university classrooms across North America. For science students, the simulation communicates how politics and economics affect environmental negotiations. For environmental studies and public policy students, the mercury simulation demonstrates how scientific uncertainty can affect decision-making. Using the mercury game as an educational tool allows students to learn about complex interactions between science and society and develop communication skills.
Wallsten, B., & Krook, J. (2016). Urks and the urban subsurface as geosocial formation. Science, Technology and Human Values, 41 (5): 827-848.
This article investigates “urks,” that is, disconnected parts of urban infrastructure that remain in their subsurface location. The reason for engaging in this topic is resource scarcity concerns, as urks contain large amounts of copper and aluminum that could be “mined” for the benefit of the environment. Our starting point is that there is a certain nonstagnant capacity of waste-like entities such as urks and that their resistance to categorization is crucial to encapsulate their political potential (cf. Hawkins 2006; Moore 2012; Hird 2013). We investigate how this indeterminate capacity has implications in terms of where future trajectories for urk recovery are conceivable. The study is based on interviews with respondents from the infrastructure and waste sectors in Sweden. By stressing the relationship between urks and their geosocial subsurface surroundings, we use the respondents’ exploratory interpretations of urks to outline a spectrum of issues that should be further discussed for urks to become a matter of concern. The negotiation of these issues, we suggest, can be conceived of as a form of navigation along the perceived fault lines between actors and priorities, and they must be resolved for increased urk recovery to occur.