Community Responses to Toxic Hazards: A Reading List


Ulrich Beck writes that one of the defining features of modernity is that increased technological infrastructure means that some people are going to be burdened with risk and harm over which they have no control. That is, risk defines social relationships.

A particular type of relationship within chemical harm and toxic hazards has received considerable scholarly attention: the David and Goliath story of communities versus industries, governments, and polluting infrastructures. The following reading list was crowdsourced by Travis Williams, a Discard Studies reader and researcher, on an environmental sociology listserv. We’ve reproduced it here:











Julian Agyeman. 2005. Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice. New York: New York University Press.

Barbara Allen. 2003. Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor Disputes. MIT Press.

Susanne Atonetta. 2002. Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir. Counterpoint: Washington, DC.

Javier Auyero and Deborah Swiston. 2009. Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown. Oxford University Press.

Shannon Bell. 2013. Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed: Appalachian Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice. University of Illinois Press.

Steven Bocking. 2004. Nature’s Experts: Science, Politics, and the Environment. Rutgers University Press.

Phil Brown. 1997. No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action. University of California Press.

Robert Bullard. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Westview Press.

Melissa Checker. 2005. Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town. NYU Press.

Jason Corburn. 2005. Street Science: Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice. MIT Press.

Michael R. Edelstein. 2003. Contaminated Communities: Coping with Residential Toxic Exposure. Westview Press.

Frank Fischer. 2000. Citizens, Experts, and the Environment: The Politics of Local Knowledge. Duke University Press.

Luke W. Cole and Sheila R. Foster. 2001. From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement. New York: New York University Press.

Valerie Gunter and Steve Kroll-Smith. 2007. Volatile Places: A Sociology of Communities and Environmental Conflicts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Lawrence C. Hamilton. 1985. “Concern About Toxic Wastes: Three Demographic Predictors.” Sociological Perspectives 28(4): 463-486.

——1985b. “Who Cares About Water Pollution: Opinion in a Small-Town Crisis.” Sociological Inquiry 55(2): 170-181.

Jill Lindsey Harrison. 2013. Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Winona LaDuke. 1999. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. South End Press.

Steve Lerner. 2010. Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Chemical Exposure in the United States. MIT Press.

Peter Little. 2014. Toxic Town: IBM, Pollution, and Industrial Risks. NYU Press.

Anna Lora-Wainwright. 2010. “An Anthropology of ‘Cancer Villages’: villagers’ perspectives and the politics of responsibility.” Journal of Contemporary China 19(63): 79-99.

——2013. Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village. University of Hawaii Press.

Doug McAdam and Hilary Boudet. 2012. Putting Social Movements in their Place: Explaining Opposition to Energy Projects in the United States, 2000-2005. Cambridge University Press.

Sheri Pasternak. 2017. Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake against the State. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

David N. Pellow 2002. Garbage Wars The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago. MIT Press.

Merrill Singer. 2011. “Down Cancer Alley: The Lived Experience of Health and Environmental Suffering in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25(2) 141-163.

Lisa Song, Jim Morris, and David Hasemyer. 2014. “Fracking Boom Spews Toxic Air Emissions on Texas Residents.” Inside Climate News

Andrew Szasz. 1994. Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice. University of Minnesota Press.

Anna Willow. 2012. Strong Hearts, Native Lands. University of Manitoba Press.

Stephen Zavestoski, Frank Mignano, Kate Agnello, Francine Darroch, and Katy Abrams. 2002. “Toxicity and Complicity: Explaining Consensual Community Response to a Chronic Technological Disaster.” Sociological Quarterly 43(3): 385-406.

Stephen Zavestoski, Frank Mignano, Kate Agnello, Francine Darroch. 2004. “Issue Framing and Citizen Apathy Toward Local Environmental Contamination.” Sociological Forum 19: 255-283.