Naked in the Face of Contamination

Amelia Fiske
2020 Catalyst Feminism Theory Technoscience  
While chemicals are often described and acted upon in technoscientific forums as isolated, discrete entities, vernacular experience points to possibilities of experiencing, speaking about, and imagining chemical exposures that have otherwise been rendered politically obsolete. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in the Ecuadorian Amazon, this article invokes accounts of daily life in order to argue that vernacular experience is necessary for understanding what it means to live in a place of
more » ... e in a place of environmental hazard, and for building a more inclusive politics of knowledge production in models and assessments of toxicity. Descriptions such as "naked in the face of contamination," "swimming in oil," "smoke thick like marmalade," or exclamations of pain re-lived "tsaac!" refuse hegemonic assumptions about how chemicals alter and enable life. To take these descriptions of life seriously is to recognize the ways that chemical concentrations often far exceed the 'normal' forms and quantities modeled in risk assessments of standard oil operations. The chemically saturated present demands a reconfiguration of toxicity – as a socio-material process, epistemic concept, and embodied experience – in order to work towards political and environmental, as well as epistemological, justice.
doi:10.28968/cftt.v6i1.32093 fatcat:xwvlhstqbjcklguggokekaxmyy