Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown [NOOK Book]

Overview

Surrounded by a large petrochemical compound, a polluted river, a hazardous waste incinerator, and an unmonitored landfill, Flammable suffers from rampant contamination of its soil, air, and water Strikingly, the nearly five thousand sickened and frail inhabitants doubt or even deny the harmful impact of pollution on their lives. Why do they fail to understand what is objectively a clear and present danger? Drawing upon archival research and over two years of fieldwork, Javier Auyero and Flammable resident Debora...
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Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown

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Overview

Surrounded by a large petrochemical compound, a polluted river, a hazardous waste incinerator, and an unmonitored landfill, Flammable suffers from rampant contamination of its soil, air, and water Strikingly, the nearly five thousand sickened and frail inhabitants doubt or even deny the harmful impact of pollution on their lives. Why do they fail to understand what is objectively a clear and present danger? Drawing upon archival research and over two years of fieldwork, Javier Auyero and Flammable resident Debora Alejandra Swistun explore the lived experiences of environmental suffering. The "toxic uncertainty," the authors hold, is shaped by conflicting political and economic forces and by the routine struggle for survival Combining social analysis with vivid descriptions of everyday life, this book places the environment at the center of the study of urban marginality, describing the effects of contamination and explaining the puzzling and contradictory meanings its residents ascribe to it.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sociology professor Auyero (Poor People's Politics) and Argentinean anthropologist Swistun combine their divergent backgrounds and research skills to present this case study of Swistun's home, a crowded Buenos Aires shantytown called Flammable with a poor, highly polluted environment. Complicated by the false optimism they receive from the government, media and lawyers ("having shit in your drinking water" is good, lawyers say, "because you can get a lot of money out of it") residents understand contamination, but they "interpret the information in different and sometimes contradictory ways." The authors see this "social domination" as the major instrument keeping residents from meaningful protest or organization; even residents aware that Shell Oil dumps toxic waste into their community are subtly re-informed by "many misinterventions" that obscure the source of the problem (are companies to blame, or the government? high-transmission electrical wires? poor personal health habits?). A powerful study of environmental abuse and "toxic suffering," this will acquaint readers in a personal way with a troubling and too-common plight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"The authors have accomplished an astounding analysis of the destruction-physical and psychological-of a people living in poverty, their world dominated by a multinational corporate giant whose toxic waste pollutes their everyday lives. This superb and moving political ethnography captures the meanings of contamination to the residents, who live in disaster-immobilized by the toxic uncertainty, powerless confusion, and mistake that ultimately normalize risk and danger."-Diane Vaughan, author of The Challenger Launch Decision

"In this stunning book, Auyero and Swistun dissect the 'slow-motion human and environmental disaster' wrought by the noxious mix of economic dispossession and extreme pollution in a slum of Buenos Aires. By disclosing how residents experience 'toxic uncertainty' in everyday life, they show why this poisonous habitat not only assaults their individual bodies, but also ravages their social defenses and cultural immunity. With its deft integration of fieldwork, social theory, and narrative, Flammable is a signal contribution that will be widely discussed, often emulated, but not surpassed for a long time to come."-Loïc Wacquant, author of Urban Outcasts

"This brilliant ethnography of a polluted shantytown opens a new theoretical and topical frontier for urban poverty studies. The authors show how impoverished, poisoned residents, compelled to scramble for their daily economic survival in the context of larger political economic forces, are buffeted by competing discourses of agents of the state and civil society. They become trapped in a misrecognized toxic environment that imposes tremendous and ongoing physical suffering, psychic anxiety, and paralyzing uncertainty on them."-Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect

"A powerful study of environmental abuse and 'toxic suffering,' this will acquaint readers in a personal way with a troubling and too-common plight."—Publishers Weekly

"...Distinct from much of the social movement literature, and also the ethnographies of the poor."—Contemporary Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199888269
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/11/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 386,058
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Javier Auyero is Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, and is the author of, among other books, Routine Politics and Collective Violence in Argentina.
Débora Alejandra Swistun received her BA in Anthropology from the University of La Plata, Argentina.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Villas del Riachuelo: Life amid Hazards, Garbage, and Poison 21

2 The Compound and the Neighborhood 28

3 Toxic Wor(l)ds 62

4 The (Confused and Mistaken) Categories of the Dominated 81

5 Exposed Waiting 109

6 Collective Disbelief in Joint Action 130

7 The Social Production of Toxic Uncertainty 140

Conclusion: Ethnography and Environmental Suffering 153

Acknowledgments 161

Notes 165

References 175

Index 187

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