Habitable Air


A reading list tailored to the project’s major themes and topics.



Chari, S. (2013). Detritus in Durban: Polluted Environs and the Biopolitics of Refusal. In A. L. Stoler (Ed.), Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (pp. 131-161). Durham and London: Duke University Press.

  • Sharad Chari delves into the experiences of marginalized neighborhoods in South Durban, specifically Wentworth and Merebank. The study examines how industrial pollution has profoundly affected these communities and explores the contrasting narratives between experts and former gang members in portraying the neighborhood’s social issues. Chari introduces the concept of detritus, encompassing the various forms of waste and ruination that impact residents’ lives. Despite their marginalized status, the article highlights the community’s resilience and resistance in refusing to accept their condition as detritus. It emphasizes the need to recognize alternative narratives and perspectives that challenge dominant stereotypes and representations of marginalized communities, extending the discussion beyond environmental degradation to include social decay and related challenges.

Bruckermann, C. (2020). Green Freeze: Fueling Discontent with Environmental Metrics.Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, March 24. 

  • Chinese air pollution and the unequal distribution of resources, such as air purifiers, create disparities in how individuals experience and cope with the effects of pollution. Access to heat is another contested issue, particularly in northern China, where the state guarantees domestic heating during winter through coal-fired systems. However, the Coal-into-Gas policy aimed to transition from coal to gas heating, resulting in unforeseen challenges. As temperatures dropped and the policy unfolded, some areas were ill-prepared, leading to freezing conditions and even deaths. The situation exposed cracks in China’s heating and energy policy, exacerbating hardships for industrial workers and their families. In response to public outcry, the government swiftly suspended the policy to prevent further unrest.

Chance, K. R. (2022). Eco-Anxiety and Climate Urgency in the Mother City. Transition, 133, 179-201. 

  • Chance’s study explores the impact of urban fires on Cape Town and the role of eco-anxiety in shaping climate policies. The study emphasizes the need to consider the experiences of vulnerable populations, such as shack-dwellers, in discussions about climate change. It examines two types of fires – shack fires and wildfires – and their differing responses and levels of urgency. The study calls for a reevaluation of the relationship between climate change and social inequality, urging a deeper understanding of local knowledge and traditions to address these issues.

Chance, K. R. (2020). Governing through Eco-Anxiety. Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, March 24.

  • This article explores the concept of eco-anxiety in the context of South Africa’s environmental challenges. It discusses how private entities shape climate debates through advertising, research, and infrastructure projects. The study highlights the ways in which eco-anxiety is used and managed to advance certain agendas and profit from the fear of insecure and changing environments. The article examines advertising campaigns that capitalize on eco-anxiety by creating categories of “good subjects” and “bad subjects.” It also delves into the relationship between eco-anxiety and governance, including the use of PR campaigns to escalate or control fears. The article underscores the interconnectedness of eco-anxiety with other social processes and the implications for policy, infrastructure, and social inequalities. Overall, it prompts a critical reflection on the sustainability of life in cities and the need for alternative modes of human existence in the face of ecological crises.

Ghertner, A. D. (2021). Postcolonial Atmospheres: Air’s Coloniality and the Climate of Enclosure. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(5), 1483-1502.

  • This article examines the atmospheric consequences of fossil-fueled imperialism, focusing on the air pollution crisis in contemporary India. It argues that governmental responses to air pollution draw upon colonial logics of bodily sequestration and enclosure. Through the analysis of archival, legal, and media sources, the article explores three atmos-spheres: the Indian lung, the colonial hill station, and privatized air through masks and purifiers. These atmospheres reflect the colonial legacies and racialized discourses that shape perceptions of air quality and vulnerability. The article highlights the need to challenge the climate of enclosure and consider non-European atmospheres to understand the reinforcement of normative racial categories in atmospheric models.

Jolaosho, O. T. (2021). The Enduring Urgency of Black Breath. Anthropology News website, April 16, 2021.

  • This article explores the concept of Black breath and its significance in understanding the experiences of Black individuals. It draws attention to the connections between racial violence, health disparities, socioeconomic precarity, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The author’s insights are informed by their previous work on political performances in Johannesburg and their experience as a yoga instructor and breathwork teacher. The article highlights the historical exploitation of Black people and the ways in which their breath has been compromised through systemic racism and environmental hazards. It discusses the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing towards Black communities as an example of how Black breath has been affected. The article underscores the importance of recognizing the vulnerability and sanctity of Black lives and bodies.

Kenner, A. (2018). Breathtaking: Asthma Care in a Time of Climate Change. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • This article offers a comprehensive ethnographic account of asthma and its multiple dimensions. Kenner explores the complexities of asthma by examining the lived experiences of individuals with the condition and their support networks. The article highlights the changing ecologies, healthcare systems, medical sciences, and built environments that shape the experience of asthma. Kenner identifies five modes of care that operate at different sociocultural scales and often interact with one another. The article emphasizes the need for new, collective care practices to address asthma as a critical public health concern, particularly in the context of climate change.

Lussem, F. (2021). Alienating “Facts” and Uneven Futures of Energy Transition. FocaalBlog, 7 April. 

  • This article explores the impact of lignite mining in the Rhineland region of Germany and the challenges faced by local communities and civil society actors in shaping the future of the region. The author highlights the historical association of coal mining with the welfare state and workers’ rights, but notes the neoliberal restructuring of the industry, leading to declining economic dependency on coal. The article discusses the involvement of energy company RWE in local politics and the suspension of fundamental rights for the extraction of fossil fuels. The successful challenge to the industry by environmentalists and civil society actors, supported by a government commission on energy transition, is also examined. However, setbacks and controversies have emerged, reflecting the difficulties of transitioning away from coal in a carbon-democratic system. The author’s engagement with local civil society actors provides insights into the uneven futures of energy transition and the skepticism towards established political institutions in developing a sustainable future for the mining region.

Ralph, L. (2013). The Qualia of Pain: How Police Torture Shapes Historical Consciousness. Anthropological Theory, 13(1-2), 104-118.

  • This article explores the relationship between the qualitative experience of pain, acts of violence, and the silences that obscure its recognition, with a focus on the experiences of black urbanites. Drawing on Nancy Munn’s ethnography, “The Fame of Gawa,” the article discusses how pain can be transformed into communal narratives that contribute to social recognition. It examines the ability of pain to travel through space and time, shaping historical consciousness and political memory. The case of Jon Burge, a police commander known for torture techniques, is analyzed to understand how the qualia of pain are converted into narratives that shape community and foster historical consciousness. The article emphasizes the importance of not forgetting these narratives and their connection to present forms of police abuse, highlighting the public’s awareness of government complicity and the ongoing struggle for justice in urban Chicago.

Morris, C. D. (2021). Seeing Stories Beneath the Surface. NACLA Report on the Americas, 53(3), 281-287.

  • In this article, Morris explores the hidden truths that shape our understanding of history and the impact of environmental injustices on marginalized communities. Focusing on her personal connection to Mossville, a freedmen’s community in Louisiana, she highlights the enduring influence of the petrochemical industry on the lives of Black individuals. The article delves into the complexities of visibility, questioning the emphasis on the visual and calling attention to forms of knowledge and truth-telling that may be marginalized in society. Morris encourages readers to look beyond surface-level images, connect with collective memories, and recognize the subtle but pervasive patterns of slow violence that often go unnoticed.

Appel, H., et al. (2015). Subterranean estates: life worlds of oil and gas. Cornell University Press. 

  • Subterranean Estates is a collection of research that offers a critical examination of the hydrocarbon industry. It goes beyond the focus on global oil firms and explores overlooked aspects such as insurance, finance, law, and community organizations. Through ethnographic research from various countries, the book provides insights into the multidimensional world of the industry, demystifying oil as a commodity. The volume also includes a photoessay highlighting the lived experiences of individuals connected to oil production. Overall, Subterranean Estates offers a new perspective on the material, symbolic, cultural, and social dimensions of the hydrocarbon industry.

Appel, H. C. (2012). Walls and white elephants: Oil extraction, responsibility, and infrastructural violence in Equatorial Guinea. Ethnography, 13(4), 439–465. 

  • This article explores how infrastructure serves as a key site for negotiating responsibility between oil and gas companies and Equatoguinean actors in Equatorial Guinea. It highlights the work of disentanglement, which aims to separate oil and gas production from broader social contexts, enabling marketization. The article emphasizes how this process of disentanglement relies on the production and manipulation of infrastructure while exacerbating infrastructural violence.

Bond, P. (2014). Economic, Ecological and Social Risks in Durban’s Port-Petrochemical-coal Expansion. Man in India, 94(3), 471-500. 

  • This article focuses on the resistance against the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission’s plans for South Durban. Despite the employment and commercial ties to the shipping and petrochemical industries in the area, residents have mobilized against the increased pollution and the detrimental effects it has on the economy, society, politics, and ecology. Activists argue that the state’s investment in the shipping industry lacks economic rationale, and the environmental damage caused by coal and petroleum is disregarded in official documents.

Boyer, D. (2014). Energopower: An Introduction. Anthropological Quarterly, 87(2), 309–333. 

  • This special collection in Anthropological Quarterly aims to examine the interconnections between modern power formations and the forces of energy and infrastructure. The articles explore how the management of life and population (biopower) is intertwined with the harnessing of electricity and fuel (energopower). The collection emphasizes the importance of investigating the convergence of biopower and energopower, particularly in the context of anthropogenic climate change. As energy use becomes increasingly linked to the disruption of life conditions, tensions arise between dominant energopolitical systems and biopolitical projects, creating new avenues for anthropological analysis. The collection concludes that both energopower and biopower are undergoing a significant transitional phase.

Boyer, D. (2019). Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene. Duke University Press. 

  • Boyer delves into the politics surrounding wind power, exploring its complexities shaped by various factors such as settler colonialism, indigenous resistance, state bureaucracy, and corporate investment. Through interviews with a range of individuals including activists, engineers, politicians, and bankers, Boyer highlights the profound influence of energy and fuel on political power dynamics. The book challenges the limitations of broad conceptual frameworks and emphasizes the importance of understanding local specificities instead of subscribing to narratives of universalism in the context of the complex conditions on the isthmus.

Dolan, C., & Rajak, D. (2016). Introduction. Toward the Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility. In C. Dolan & D. Rajak (Eds.), The Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility. New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 1–28. 

  • The Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility explores the meanings, practices, and impact of corporate social and environmental responsibility across a range of transnational corporations and geographical locations (Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Peru, South Africa, the UK, and the USA). The contributors examine the expectations, frictions and contradictions the CSR movement is generating and addressing key issues such as  the introduction of new forms of management, control, and discipline through ethical and environmental governance or the extent to which corporate responsibility challenges existing patterns of inequality rather than generating new geographies of inclusion and exclusion.

Dove, M. R. (1994). North-south relations, global warming, and the global system. Chemosphere, 29(5), 1063–1077. 

  • This article examines the debate surrounding the baseline for anthropogenic contributions to global warming, particularly in relation to the framing of the issue between more-developed and less-developed countries. By exploring historical and developmental differences among nations, it raises questions about the impact of these differences on global warming, the interplay between the prior history of one nation and the subsequent history of another, and the consequences of temporal and spatial disparities in the capacity to exacerbate or mitigate global warming. Ultimately, the article addresses the relationship between national histories, the global warming problem, and the development of a global system capable of addressing it.

Ferguson, J. (2005). Seeing Like an Oil Company: Space, Security and Global Capital in Neoliberal Africa. American Anthropologists 107(3), 377–82. 

  • This article critically examines the analysis presented by James Scott in his book “Seeing Like a State” and explores its applicability to the context of neoliberal global capitalism. The author questions Scott’s argument that the dynamics of standardization and homogenization extend to both developmentalist states and contemporary downsized states and global corporations. By focusing on recent capital investment in Africa, particularly in mineral resource extraction like oil, the article reveals contrasting perspectives between the homogenizing state view and the distinct way of seeing employed by global oil companies. The discussion revolves around concepts of territory, order, and disorder within the context of capital investment.

Green, L. J. F. (2020). Rock | Water | Life: Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonising South Africa. Duke University Press. 

  • Lesley Green explores the complex intersections of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental degradation in South Africa. The article argues for a shift in environmental research and governance towards an ecopolitical approach that confronts the country’s history of racial oppression and environmental exploitation. Green examines the contradictory narratives of nature presented in environmental sciences, highlighting the need to address ongoing struggles for land restitution and environmental justice. Drawing on case studies from South Africa, the article delves into issues such as contested water access in Cape Town, debates surrounding natural gas fracking in the Karoo, efforts to decolonize science, the significance of soil in land restitution, urban baboon management, and the impacts of sewage disposal in urban oceans.

Livingston, J. (2019). Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa. Durham: Duke University Press. 

  • Julie Livingston challenges the prevailing belief that economic growth under capitalism leads to collective well-being. Using Botswana as a parable with lessons for the global context, the book examines the negative consequences of consumption-driven growth that extend beyond local benefits. Livingston introduces the concept of “self-devouring growth,” an unsustainable pursuit of economic growth that threatens the environment. She argues that relying solely on technological advancements is insufficient to prevent catastrophic destruction, emphasizing the need to consider the intricate relationships between humans, nonhuman beings, plants, and minerals. By failing to comprehend these relationships and the implications of self-devouring growth, the book warns that we may unknowingly consume our own future.

Peek, S. (2000). South African Environmental Justice Struggles against “toxic” Petrochemical Industries in South Durban: The Engen Refinery Case.

  • This case study examines the South Durban community’s fight against disproportionate exposure to hazardous environments and pollution, particularly linked to petrochemical industrial production.

Reyna, S. P. (2007). The Traveling Model That Would Not Travel: Oil, Empire, and Patrimonialism in Contemporary Chad. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice, 51(3), 78–102. 

  • This article explores the concept of “traveling models,” which are cultural plans that prescribe how to implement certain actions based on successful practices elsewhere. It focuses on the World Bank’s traveling model of oil revenue distribution in Chad, intended to support development. The article argues that this model is ineffective and instead a dystopian situation is emerging. It proposes an alternative explanation that considers the contradictions and consequences of Chadian patrimonialism and US imperialism. The analysis has implications for understanding patrimonialism and planning development.

Rajak, D., & Gilberthorpe, E. (2016). The anthropology of extraction: critical perspectives on the resource curse. Journal of Development Studies, 53(2), 186-204. 

  • This article discusses the limitations of addressing the resource curse solely through revenue management and technical solutions, emphasizing the need to examine power dynamics. It provides a review of anthropological research in the past decade, highlighting the importance of understanding the interplay of social relations, economic interests, and power struggles in the political economy of extraction. The article emphasizes the significance of considering both subaltern and elite agency to address the complexities, incompatibilities, and inequities in the exploitation of mineral resources.

Sandlos, J., & Keeling, A. (2016). Toxic Legacies, Slow Violence, and Environmental Injustice at Giant Mine, Northwest Territories. Northern Review, 42, 7–21. 

  • This article focuses on the impact of arsenic pollution from the now-abandoned Giant Mine in Yellowknife on the nearby Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN). The pollution had severe health effects on the YKDFN community due to their reliance on local water sources and traditional food sources. The Canadian government is currently undertaking a remediation project to clean up the contaminated site. The article explores the history of arsenic pollution as a form of “slow violence” that not only poses a technical problem but also reflects a historical process of colonial dispossession and alienation of Indigenous people from their land. The long-term storage of arsenic at the site extends the effects of this slow violence into the distant future.

Watts, M. (2008). Blood oil: The anatomy of a petro-insurgency in the Niger Delta. Focaal, 2008(52), 18-38. 

  • This article explores the emergence of an “oil insurgency” in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, with a focus on the concept of the oil complex. The oil complex is seen as both a corporate enclave economy and a center of political and economic power influenced by various local, national, and transnational forces, which can be described as imperial oil. Under the conditions of U.S. military neoliberalism, the operations of the oil complex contribute to the creation of violent and unstable spaces characterized by “accumulation by dispossession,” as identified by David Harvey. The insurgency is analyzed in the context of a history of political and economic marginalization, as well as growing political mobilization and militancy within the Niger Delta. Rather than leading to a robust, modern oil nation, the oil complex has resulted in a fragmented polity with fragmented sovereignty.

Watts, M. (2004). Resource curse? Governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Geopolitics, 9(1), 50–80. 

  • This article critically examines the concept of resource politics and its implications for the conduct of politics, specifically focusing on the political economy of oil in Nigeria. It highlights the limitations of existing resource politics research, which often either overly emphasizes the determinative role of commodities or neglects the analytical significance of specific resource characteristics in understanding politics, governance, and conflict. Drawing on the works of Michel Foucault and Nikolas Rose, the article identifies three distinct forms of governable space and rule associated with oil-based capitalism in Nigeria: the chieftainship, the ethnic minority, and the nation-state. It argues that these governable spaces, as modes of governance, identity, and territoriality, are not uniformly governable and may be plagued by internal dissent and conflict. Moreover, these spaces may be incompatible with one another, resulting in complex and contradictory dynamics.

Weszkalnys, G. (2014). Anticipating Oil: The Temporal Politics of a Disaster Yet to Come. The Sociological Review, 62, 211-35. 

  • This article addresses the social, economic, and political factors that influence oil revenue management and development in two oil-producing countries, Nigeria and Norway. It builds upon previous studies that emphasize the role of institutions in determining the impact of resource inequality and the resource curse. By conducting a comparative qualitative analysis and employing the resource curse theory as the theoretical framework, the study finds that strong institutions and political systems are crucial in shaping the nature of development in resource-rich countries. It highlights the importance of effective resource distribution and management, as exemplified by Norway’s success, which challenges the assumptions of the resource curse theory. The findings have significant implications for resource-rich but less democratic countries, emphasizing the need for robust institutions to ensure positive economic outcomes.

Amigun, B., Musango, J.K., & Stafford, W. (2011). Biofuels and Sustainability in Africa. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15(2), 1360-1372. 

  • This article explores the urgent need for sustainable solutions in the field of biofuels due to climate change, fuel price volatility, food crises, and economic turbulence. With many African countries heavily reliant on imported oil, developing domestic renewable energy sources such as biofuels holds promise for achieving self-reliant energy supplies and addressing economic, ecological, social, and security concerns. However, it raises questions about the feasibility of producing biofuels while minimizing negative social and environmental impacts. The paper provides an overview of biofuel development in Africa, discussing country-specific economic, environmental, and social factors. It proposes a framework of policy incentives based on technology maturity and explores practices, processes, and technologies that can enhance efficiency, reduce energy and water demands, and mitigate the social and environmental footprint of biofuels production, thereby contributing to sustainable development.

Asmal, K., Hadland, A., & Levy, M. (2011). Kader Asmal: Politics in my Blood: A Memoir. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. 

  • This article describes the memoirs of Kader Asmal, a prominent South African figure who was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and played a significant role in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Asmal’s memoirs not only recount his personal journey but also shed light on the broader narrative of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and the establishment of a democratic government. As a member of the ANC’s Constitutional Committee and negotiating team, as well as a cabinet minister under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Asmal’s memoirs provide insights into the political landscape of the time and his dedication to freedom, equality, and justice. The article highlights his contributions to the drafting of South Africa’s Bill of Rights, which reflects his lifelong commitment to these ideals.

Avila, S. (2018). Environmental Justice and the Expanding Geography of Wind Power Conflicts. Sustainability Science, 13(3), 599-616. 

  • This article explores the global expansion of wind power and the emergence of conflicts surrounding wind farms. Analyzing 20 case studies from different continents, it examines how wind energy generation and distribution are shaped by power structures and land pressures. The study highlights the role of opposition in rural areas, defending indigenous territories, local livelihoods, and communal development projects. It argues that these emerging storylines expand the wind energy debate, challenging socially unequal patterns and promoting environmental justice. Rather than obstacles, local opposition offers opportunities for discussing sustainable transition pathways.

Calzadilla, P., & Mauger, R. (2018). The UN’s New Sustainable Development Agenda and Renewable Energy: The Challenge to Reach SDG7 while Achieving Energy Justice. Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, 36(2), 233-254. 

  • This study examines the social and environmental challenges faced by renewable energy projects, particularly wind and solar, in Chile, India, Kenya, and Mexico. Using an energy justice lens, the article explores current and potential injustices associated with these projects and proposes strategies to address them. The study emphasizes the importance of incorporating energy justice considerations into the design and implementation of renewable energy policies to ensure inclusivity in achieving Goal 7 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The article concludes with recommendations for action.

Eriksen, T.H. (2016). Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change. London: Pluto Press. 

  • This study examines the social and environmental challenges faced by wind and solar projects in Chile, India, Kenya, and Mexico, which are important renewable energy sources in developing countries. Using an energy justice lens, the research investigates existing and potential injustices associated with these projects and proposes strategies to address them. The study emphasizes the need to incorporate energy justice considerations into the design and implementation of renewable energy policies and developments to ensure inclusivity in achieving Goal 7 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The article concludes with recommendations for action.

Filer, C. (1999). The Dialectics of Negation and Negotiation in the Anthropology of Mineral Resource Development in Papua New Guinea. In A. Cheater (Ed.), The Anthropology of Power: Empowerment and Disempowerment in Changing Structures (pp. 88–102). London: Routledge.

  • This multilocal form of ethnographic inquiry is one which may, amongst other things, serve to locate a variety of communities or stakeholders in the ‘social grounds that produce a discourse of policy’

Ghertner, A.D. (2021). Postcolonial Atmospheres: Air’s Coloniality and the Climate of Enclosure. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(5), 1483-1502.

  • This article explores the atmospheric afterlives of fossil-fueled imperialism, emphasizing their impact on spatial dispositions, perceptions, and governance of air. Focusing on India’s air pollution crisis, it examines governmental responses influenced by colonial logics of bodily sequestration and enclosure. Through archival, legal, and media sources, it uncovers the imperial traces of three atmospheres: the Indian lung, the colonial hill station, and privatized air through masks and purifiers. These atmospheres reveal the perpetuation of racial categories and the need to challenge the climate of enclosure for transformative change. The article highlights the importance of considering non-European atmospheres to understand the reinforcement of normative racial categories.

Ghertner, A.D. (2019). The Colonial Roots of India’s Air Pollution Crisis. Economic and Political Weekly.

  • This article examines the historical origins of the scientific assertion that Indian lung capacity is deficient compared to the “European norm.” It argues that the pathologization of the Indian lung, originally used to justify colonial-era segregation, has resurfaced in contemporary times, leading to a troubling denial of pollution-induced illness by the state. The colonial theories of tropical air suggest that the Indian lung is inherently adapted to a dusty environment, which in turn diminishes the sense of urgency for pollution control measures.

Ongoma, V. (2018). Socio-Economic and Environmental Analysis of Wind Power Projects as Viable Renewable Energy Resources in Kenya. African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, 10(5), 525-538. 

  • This article examines the drivers of renewable energy resources in Kenya, focusing on the Ngong Wind Farm. Government tariffs and policies, funding, and political and community support are identified as key factors influencing the success of wind power projects in the country. The study highlights the need for increased investment, research, and collaboration to foster innovations in the renewable energy sector. Institutional platforms can play a vital role in advancing wind technology through knowledge sharing and leveraging policies.

Owino, T., Kamphof, R., Kuneman, E., van Tilburg, X., van Schaik, L., & Rawlins, J. (2016). Towards a “Green” Trajectory of Economic Growth and Energy Security in Kenya? Clingendael, Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Research report.

  • This report addresses Kenya’s energy security and green growth development in light of newly found oil reserves and the global consensus on decarbonization.

Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing. 

  • Kate Raworth challenges the traditional economic theories of continuous growth and proposes a new framework for the 21st century. She introduces the “Doughnut Model,” which incorporates twelve social foundation aspects and nine planetary boundaries to guide a more balanced and sustainable economy. Raworth’s work emphasizes the need to prioritize both human well-being and the health of the planet, offering a wake-up call to transform our capitalist worldview. By reevaluating our economic goals and considering long-term sustainability, we can create an economy that benefits both people and the planet.

Weszkalnys, G. (2016). A Doubtful Hope: Resource Affect in a Future Oil Economy. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22, 127–146. 

  • This article explores the role of affect in global debates surrounding natural resource extraction. The author theorizes resource affect as both an intrinsic element of capitalist dynamics and a subject of concern for corporate, government, and third-sector actors. Drawing on ethnographic research in São Tomé and Príncipe, the article examines the affective horizons generated by the possibility of hydrocarbon exploration, encompassing visions of improvement, transformation, and apprehensions of failure and discontent. Additionally, the study investigates the various oil-related campaigns and initiatives undertaken by NGOs and global governance institutions in the region, highlighting the emergence of a new resource politics that encompasses not only democratic and technical considerations but also the affective dissonances and contradictions associated with resource exploitation.

Agard-Jones, V. (2013). Bodies in the System. Small Axe, 17(3), 182–192. 

  • This essay discusses Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s examination of the village, the world, and the nation as units of analysis in his book “Peasants and Capital” and proposes extending his theorization by incorporating the body as a fourth unit of analysis. Drawing on feminist science studies and fieldwork on sexual politics in Martinique, the author explores how the body can serve as a scalar intertext in highlighting the Caribbean’s relevance to contemporary discussions on power, politics, and postcolonialism. By considering the body and its constituent parts, this analysis aims to further demonstrate the significance of seemingly marginal individuals and places in understanding global dynamics.

Agard-Jones, V. (2014). Spray. Somatosphere, May 27. 

  • The article delves into the dynamics of ingestion and egress, focusing on chemicals absorbed through sprays.

Auyero, J., & Swistun, D. (2008). The Social Production of Toxic Uncertainty. American Sociological Review, 73, 357-379. 

  • This article presents findings from archival research and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in an Argentine shantytown characterized by environmental contamination. The study examines how social factors contribute to the production of environmental uncertainty in the community. The research highlights residents’ perceptions of contamination, which are often marked by doubts and misconceptions about the polluted environment. The article analyzes the sociological aspects of uncertainty and the erroneous perceptions underlying it, attributing them to the relational nature of risk perceptions and the influence of powerful external actors. The case study suggests that cognitive psychology and organizational sociology can shed light on the collective production of ignorance, uncertainty, and error beyond isolated communities and laboratory settings. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of studying contaminated spaces where urban poor populations reside in research on inequality and marginality, particularly in Latin America.

Chance, K. R. (2023). Coughing out the city: Habitable air in petrochemical South Africa. cArgo: Revue Internationale d’Anthropologie Culturelle & Sociale.

  • This article explores the practice of “coughing out” in Durban, South Africa, where coughing, roaring, or other bodily noises are used as a form of collective voicing and resilience in the face of environmental pollution, racial inequalities, and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an ethnographic lens, the author examines how music, spiritual healing, and community meetings empower residents to address shared grievances and navigate the complexities of urban life in petrochemical hubs. Chance’s study not only sheds light on a remarkable form of everyday resistance but also underscores the significance of local knowledge and collective action in the pursuit of environmental justice and community well-being.

Clarke, M. (1990). Memories of Breathing: A Phenomenological Dialogue: Asthma as a Way of Becoming. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 8, 208-223.

  • This article is a phenomenological exploration of the experience of living with asthma. Drawing on her own experiences and those of others, Clarke argues that asthma can be understood as a way of being in the world, rather than simply a disease. She describes how asthma can shape one’s sense of self, body, and relationships with others. “Memories of Breathing” offers a personal and introspective look into the life of a child with asthma and how this condition shapes her experiences and perceptions. It touches on themes of vulnerability, resilience, and the complex emotions that come with managing a chronic illness.

Davies, T. (2022). Slow Violence and Toxic Geographies: ‘Out of sight’ to whom? Politics and Space, 40(2), 409–427.

  • This article examines the relationship between toxic pollution and violence, particularly focusing on the gradual brutalities experienced by communities living near petrochemical infrastructure. By comparing the concepts of ‘slow violence’ and ‘structural violence’, the paper highlights the interconnectedness of these forms of harm and argues that structural inequality can manifest as slow violence. The article challenges the notion that toxic landscapes are entirely invisible, emphasizing the importance of recognizing whose perspectives and knowledge count in understanding the impacts of slow violence. Drawing on ethnographic research in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’, a postcolonial region, the paper reveals how communities gradually witness the effects of slow violence in their everyday lives. The concept of ‘epistemic violence’ is introduced, suggesting that slow violence persists not due to a lack of stories about pollution, but because certain stories and experiences are marginalized and dismissed. Ultimately, the article calls for a reevaluation of the political structures that perpetuate unequal geographies of pollution.

Davies, T. (2018). Toxic Space and Time: Slow Violence, Necropolitics, and Petrochemical Pollution. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(6), 1537–1553. 

  • This article delves into the intersection of time and living in contaminated environments, drawing from ethnographic research conducted in a polluted town in Louisiana. By examining the uncertain temporalities of industrial pollution and employing theoretical frameworks on necropolitics and slow violence, the article sheds light on the racialized and attritional experience of petrochemical pollution in a former plantation landscape. The concept of “death-worlds” emerges, highlighting the oppressive nature of exposure to toxic chemicals and the constricting experience of uncertain temporality. The article emphasizes how the daily concerns of petrochemical infrastructure shape the lived experiences of affected communities. Additionally, it introduces the notion of “slow observation” as a form of resistance and environmental justice, providing a means for perceiving and responding to chronic pollution and its gradual impacts.

Fabricant, N. (2022). Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore. University of California Press. 

  • Fighting to Breathe is a documentary account of a group of high school students in South Baltimore who confront the health disparities and inequality caused by industrial toxic emissions in their community. The students take a stand against unequal land use practices and the construction of an incinerator, opting for alternative waste management strategies. Authored by Nicole Fabricant, a Baltimore resident and activist-scholar, the book chronicles the students’ journey to envision, design, and create a more just and sustainable city.

Fassin, D. (2007). When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa. University of California Press. 

  • Didier Fassin examines the failure of the ANC government to address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Fassin traces the roots of the crisis back to the apartheid era and the colonial period, highlighting the deep-seated issues that have contributed to the spread of HIV. The book discusses President Thabo Mbeki’s controversial stance on AIDS, including funding questionable research and questioning the effectiveness of prevention measures. Fassin contextualizes Mbeki’s position within the larger context of race and genocide, drawing on ethnographic data from Johannesburg’s townships. The book argues that the AIDS crisis in South Africa is not only a human tragedy but also a demographic catastrophe, rooted in the country’s history of institutionalized racial inequality.

Flikke, R. (2018). Healing in Polluted Places: Mountains, Air, and Weather in Zulu Zionist Ritual Practice. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 12(1), 76-95. 

  • This article explores the ritual practices of a Zulu Zionist congregation in a polluted urban township in Durban, South Africa. The author focuses on a monthly mountaintop gathering that serves as a means of physical and spiritual healing for the community. Through an ethnographic case study, the article argues that the ritual process involves a deep engagement with the mountainous landscape, allowing participants to connect with the spiritual and historical aspects of the environment. The polluted surroundings are seen as both a source of affliction and healing, challenging the conventional distinction between industrial and environmental pollution in Zulu healing rituals. The article highlights the complex and ambivalent relationship between pollution and the pursuit of health and well-being within this specific cultural context.

Flikke, R. (2019). Matters that Matter: Air and Atmosphere as Material Politics in South Africa. In Harvey, P., Krohn-Hansen, C., & Nustad, K. G. (Eds.), Anthropos and the Material (pp. 179-195). Duke University Press.

  • This chapter explores the concept of modernity and its relationship to the introduction of chlorine gas during World War I. The author examines Peter Sloterdijk’s argument that the gas attacks marked a significant turning point in Western ontology, challenging the assumption that breathable air is inherently life-sustaining. The article also discusses the scarcity of research on the influence of air and atmospheres on human lifeworlds, as highlighted by Tim Ingold. Through two historically and culturally distinct cases, the author explores the interplay between air dependency and the formation of human lifeworlds within different contexts.

Flikke, R. (2020). Breathing Pneumatology: Spirit, Wind, and Atmosphere in a Zulu Zionist Congregation. In Lauterbach, K., & Vähäkangas, M. (Eds.), Faith in African Lived Christianity: Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives (pp. 291-313). Brill: Leiden.

  • This chapter presents the findings of three years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted among a group of Zulu Zionists in an urban township near Durban, South Africa. The Zulu Zionists belong to the African Independent Churches (AICs), a rapidly growing religious movement in sub-Saharan Africa. The author explores the continuities between the spiritual experiences of the Zulu Zionists and precolonial Zulu ritual practices. Drawing on anthropologist Tim Ingold’s concept of the “weather-world,” the chapter suggests that the Zulu people’s pneumatology (study of the spirit) can be understood as a result of their longstanding ritual relationship with the natural environment.

Fortun, K., et al. (2014). Experimental Ethnography Online: The Asthma Files. Cultural Studies, 28(4), 632–642. 

  • This essay introduces The Asthma Files, an innovative digital ethnography project aimed at exploring various aspects of asthma and investigating novel approaches to academic research and presentation. The project not only examines the understanding, care, and governance of asthma in different contexts but also explores the potential of digital tools in supporting collaborative research practices and engaging readers with ethnographic work. With a focus on the increasing incidence of asthma globally, the project seeks to contribute to the development of new forms of asthma knowledge through ethnography, interdisciplinary exploration, and the integration of diverse forms of knowledge. It represents an experimental endeavor in ethnography and science communication, aiming to deepen our understanding of complex health conditions like asthma.

Harper, J. (2004). Breathless in Houston: A Political Ecology of Health Approach to Understanding Environmental Health Concerns. Medical Anthropology, 23(4), 295–326. 

  • This paper advocates for the integration of political ecology and interpretive critical medical anthropology to comprehensively analyze the intersection of health and the environment. It highlights the limitations of previous approaches that have predominantly relied on biomedical models and emphasizes the importance of understanding diverse explanatory models of health and disease. By combining these theoretical perspectives, the paper argues for a more nuanced understanding of the social responses to environmental practices and their impact on human health. The application of this framework is illustrated through a case study of air quality and health in Houston, Texas, which reveals how local understandings of respiratory health can diverge from public health concepts. The research highlights the significance of these differing perspectives in shaping individuals’ interactions with the environment.

Ingold, T. (2010). Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16, 121–139. 

  • This essay delves into the relationship between acquiring knowledge, walking, and the experience of weather. It explores the multifaceted nature of the ground, emphasizing its diversity, composition, and continuous transformation. Rather than perceiving the ground from fixed positions, it is apprehended through movement. As people traverse the ground, they create paths and tracks through the impression of footprints. The temporal nature of these footprints is closely intertwined with the dynamic formation of the ground, which is influenced by weather conditions and the interactions between earth and air. Wayfarers, as they walk, simultaneously engage with the air and the ground, breathing with each step. This process of walking itself becomes a mode of thinking and knowing, with knowledge being shaped along the paths of movement within the weather-world.

Kristen, S. (2017). Settler Atmospherics. Cultural Anthropology. 

  • This short essay highlights the oppressive nature of breathing in a settler atmosphere, where certain individuals struggle to breathe. It references the events that unfolded in the fall of 2016, particularly at Standing Rock and the Mni Sose (Missouri River). These locations became crucial battlegrounds for water protectors advocating for indigenous sovereignty, but they were also scenes of intense conflict involving heavy military equipment, smoke, and aggressive tactics employed by police and private security forces.

Low, C. (2007). Khoisan wind: hunting and healing. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 13, 71–90. 

  • This paper explores the relationship between the Khoi and San peoples of southern Africa and the phenomenon of wind, and how it has shaped their epistemology and ontology. Drawing on historical and recent Khoisan ethnography, the author examines the knowledge and experiences of wind among these hunter-gatherer communities. The paper highlights the continuity in wind relationships and their influence on Khoisan understandings of the body and illness. The author argues that previous anthropological studies focused primarily on the trance healing dance, neglecting the broader healing context that includes practices such as massage, medicinal cuts, and witchcraft. By exploring these contexts, the paper reveals the interconnectedness of wind, potency, arrows, and smell in Khoisan healing practices. The author suggests that while some associations between wind and potency have been acknowledged in specific Khoisan contexts, the broader similarities have often been overlooked due to the challenges and lack of interest in comparative studies of the Khoisan.

Manderson, L., & Rose, G. (2000). More than a breath of difference: Competing paradigms of asthma. Anthropology & Medicine, 7(3), 335-350. 

  • This article discusses the challenges of collecting, organizing, and managing anthropological data in projects involving multiple researchers. Traditionally, anthropological data analysis was conducted by individual researchers, and there was little need to classify and code systems for accessibility by others. However, with the rise of projects involving qualitative and quantitative data collected by multiple researchers, establishing and managing databases becomes more complex, especially in longitudinal studies. The article draws on the authors’ experiences in Australia and explores the use of computer packages for data management. It emphasizes the importance of preserving data integrity, maintaining context, and facilitating the continued and varied use of data while addressing the challenges associated with coding schemes and documentation.

Manderson, L., & Levine, S. (2018). Southward Focused: Medical Anthropology in South Africa. American Anthropologist, 120(3), 566–569. 

  • This article explores the role of South African scholars in medical anthropology and their engagement with the Euro-American canon. It highlights the need for South African scholars to build theory and engage with each other while maintaining a conversation with the work from the Global North. South Africa serves as a compelling site for knowledge generation and theory building due to its extreme inequality, legacies of apartheid, and global influences. The country’s context sheds light on the impact of structural disadvantage, vulnerability, and context on disease biology, pathologies, and management. The article emphasizes the importance of documenting the connections and intersections between social and economic environments, health, and well-being, and bringing theoretical insight to understand how illness is shaped by material conditions, social meanings, and lived experience.

Mkhwanazi, N. (2016). Medical Anthropology in Africa: The Trouble with a Single Story. Medical Anthropology, 35(2), 193–202. 

  • This article critiques the dominant narrative in medical anthropology regarding medicine, health, and health-seeking behavior in sub-Saharan Africa. The author highlights the tendency to rely on a single story, which limits exposure to alternative narratives. By analyzing five recent books, the article identifies the components that form the dominant narrative. It then presents two alternative accounts that deviate from this narrative, emphasizing the themes they foreground. The author urges medical anthropologists to be aware of the existence of the singular story and to resist using its components as the framework for their own accounts, promoting a more diverse and nuanced understanding of medicine and health in Africa.

Murphy, M. (2017). Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations. Cultural Anthropology, 32(4), 495-503. 

  • The article addresses capitalism as a figure of life entangled within community, ecological, colonial, racial, gendered, military, and infrastructural histories that have profoundly shaped the susceptibilities and potentials of future life.

Murphy, M. (2013). Chemical Infrastructures of the St. Clair River. In Boudia, S., & Jas, N. (Eds.), Toxicants, Health and Regulation since 1945 (pp. 103–115). Routledge.

  • This paper explores the temporal dimension of chemical infrastructures and their impact on a specific site, the St Clair River. The river is not only a crucial node in North America’s petrochemical network but also a landscape heavily contaminated by industrial effluents. The paper highlights the issue of Certificates of Approval being facility-specific, failing to consider the cumulative effects of multiple industrial facilities in the region. The Aamjiwnanng First Nation has documented the harmful effects of living in this area through community health surveys and body maps, revealing the embodied consequences of exposure to chemicals. The presence of sirens in the area serves as a reminder of the potential future of the chemical infrastructure.

Murphy, M. (2013). Distributed Reproduction, Chemical Violence, And Latency. S&F Online, 11(3), 1–7.

  • This paper delves into the history of the St. Clair River and its transformation due to the petrochemical industry. It describes how the river, once a natural passage between lakes, became a hub of industrial activity known as Canada’s Chemical Valley. The expansion of refining plants, pipelines, and transportation networks facilitated the processing and distribution of petroleum and other chemicals across North America. The paper explores the interplay between reproduction, chemicals, and time in the context of the river’s petrochemical history.

Murphy, M. (2015). Not Knowing About The Chemicals In Our Bodies. Canada Watch, Fall, 23–25.

  • This article explores the limitations and complexities surrounding our understanding of chemical exposures and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). It highlights the pervasiveness of industrially produced chemicals within our bodies and the challenges in determining their origins and effects. The author discusses four ways in which we struggle to know about these chemicals, including their inherent properties, the limitations of our instruments and experiments, the delays in detecting their effects, and the role of science and government policy in shaping our knowledge gaps. The article emphasizes the multi-generational impact of EDCs and the inherent difficulties in tracing the contributions of past exposures to present-day health conditions. It also critiques the narrow focus of toxicology based on the dose-response curve.

Nading, A. M. (2020). Living in a Toxic World. Annual Review of Anthropology, 49(1), 209–224. 

  • This review explores the concept of toxicity in relation to industrial toxic substances and their impact on the environment and human bodies. It argues that conventional approaches to measuring and mitigating toxicity often result in uncertainty. The author suggests that understanding toxicity requires ethical, technical, and aesthetic efforts to view it as a contingent encounter between different entities, rather than an inherent quality of substances. The review examines anthropological research on toxicity, focusing on responses to toxic disasters, occupational exposure, and various forms of care. It highlights the concept of “toxic worlding” to describe how individuals and institutions navigate and shape toxic environments. The review concludes by emphasizing the importance of collaborative and engaged anthropology in reimagining and transforming the world, rather than solely focusing on purification or detoxification.

Naidoo, R. N., et al. (2013). Ambient pollution and respiratory outcomes among schoolchildren in Durban, South Africa. South African Journal of Child Health, 7(4), 127-134. 

  • This study aimed to investigate the relationship between ambient air pollutants and respiratory outcomes in schoolchildren in Durban, South Africa. The researchers selected primary schools from industrialized and non-industrial areas of the city and conducted interviews, spirometry, and other tests among grade 4 students. They monitored air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, at the schools and other sites. The results showed higher levels of sulphur dioxide in the industrialized south region compared to the non-industrial north, while particulate matter concentrations were similar across the city. Children from schools in the industrialized areas had higher prevalences of persistent asthma and marked airway hyperreactivity compared to those from non-industrial areas. The study suggests that industrial pollution may be associated with adverse respiratory health effects in these schoolchildren.

Nunn, N. (2018). Toxic Encounters, Settler Logics of Elimination, and the Future of a Continent. Antipode, 50(5), 1330-1348. 

  • This paper explores the intersection of toxic geographies and settler colonialism, examining how larger structures and histories contribute to the production of toxicity. The author investigates specific cases, including methylmercury contamination near Grassy Narrows First Nation in Northern Ontario and toxic conversations on social media following the murder of Colten Boushie, a Cree man in Saskatchewan, Canada. The paper argues that understanding the normative ideologies, settler narratives, and socio-political structures involved in the production of toxicity sheds light on the colonial logics that privilege certain lives while subjecting others to elimination, positioning them outside the regulatory category of the Human.

Petryna, A. (2022). Horizon Work: At the Edges of Knowledge in an Age of Runaway Climate Change. Princeton University Press.

  • Petryna examines the impact of climate change on our ability to predict and respond to environmental crises. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, Earth’s ecosystems become increasingly unstable and unpredictable. Petryna explores the concept of “horizoning,” a mode of reckoning that considers unnatural disasters against a backdrop of expectations and actions. She discusses the experiences of wildfire scientists and wildland firefighters who must revise their predictive models and abandon reliance on past patterns due to shifting fire behaviors. The book emphasizes the importance of scientific and ethical labor in combating climate chaos and highlights the potential of horizoning to reverse harmful legacies and foster collective action for recoverable futures. “Horizon Work” offers insights into confronting the stark realities of climate change and turning projection uncertainties into spaces of opportunity.

Shapiro, N. (2015). Attuning to the Chemosphere: Domestic Formaldehyde, Bodily Reasoning, and the Chemical Sublime. Cultural Anthropology, 30(3), 368-393. 

  • This article explores the concept of the “chemical sublime” in the context of chronic domestic chemical exposures. It argues that these exposures, which occur over extended periods with low intensity, are most perceptible through diffuse sensory practices that pay attention to subtle changes in somatic function and atmosphere. Through sustained observation of minor alterations and biochemical impressions, individuals living in contaminated homes accumulate knowledge about the molecular constituents of their environment. This process, termed the “chemical sublime,” elevates seemingly insignificant encounters with toxicants into events that prompt ethical considerations and potential interventions. The article examines how diffuse sensory practices generate understanding, attention, and engagements with the chemical world, encompassing various bodies and species.

Shapiro, N., & Kirksey, E. (2017). Chemo-Ethnography: An Introduction. Cultural Anthropology, 32(4), 481–493. 

  • This collection of essays explores the intersections of chemicals and ethnographic research. It acknowledges the longstanding engagement of anthropologists with the material and social implications of chemicals in various contexts. Theoretical and empirical studies delve into technoscientific environmental constructs, public forms, state abdication, and capital despoilment, offering insights into the complexities of chemical phenomena. The concept of “chemo-ethnography” is introduced, drawing inspiration from the exploration of cancer identities and the pharmakon. The collection expands its focus beyond biomedical perspectives and includes investigations of chemical relations in non-human realms. It examines corrosive atmospheres, ecological assemblages, and the blurred boundaries between life and non-life. The essays seek to understand how molecular frictions, catalytic dynamics, and other chemical processes shape our understanding of the world and our social interactions.

Tsing, A., Swanson, H., Gan, E., & Bubandt, N. (2017). Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 

  • This anthology brings together scholars from various disciplines to explore the challenges of living on a damaged planet. It emphasizes the need for curiosity, observation, and interdisciplinary dialogue in understanding and responding to human-induced environmental changes. The collection proposes “arts of living” that involve entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions as tools for navigating the complexities of the Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two central themes: Ghosts, representing landscapes haunted by the impacts of modernity, and Monsters, highlighting interspecies and intraspecies social relationships. Through encounters with diverse elements of the natural world, such as ants, lichen, rocks, and radioactive waste, the anthology invites readers to engage with the wonders and terrors of our current epoch.

Bertelsen, B. E. (2021). A lesser human? Utopian registers of urban reconfiguration in Maputo, Mozambique. Social Anthropology, 29(1), 87–107. 

  • This article explores the intersection of perspectives on urban flexibility, adaptability, and resilience in the context of climate change and the Anthropocene. It reflects on the paradoxical nature of the human figure as both a transformative force and a subject that needs to move away from a human-centric worldview. The article critically examines the concept of “resilience governance” and its implications for shaping human life in the face of collapsed ecologies. It also investigates the involvement of utopic registers as a form of resistance against these developments in Mozambique.

Cassar, M., & Pender, R. (2005). The Impact Of Climate Change On Cultural Heritage: Evidence And Response. Icom Committee For Conservation: 14th Triennial Meeting The Hague, Preprints, 610-616. 

  • This paper provides an extensive investigation into the effects of climate change on various elements of cultural heritage, including historic buildings, buried archaeology, parks, and gardens. The research was conducted in conjunction with the publication of climate change scenarios and regional assessments. The methodology involved a comprehensive review of climate change and adaptation literature, as well as surveys, site visits, and workshops with experts and policymakers. The study identifies physical changes occurring in cultural heritage due to climate change and offers policy recommendations based on the findings.

Chari, S. (2006). Post-apartheid livelihood struggles in Wentworth, South Durban. In Padayachee, V. (Ed.), The Development Decade? Economic and Social Change in South Africa, 1994-2004. HSRC Press. 

  • This paper presents a comprehensive study examining the effects of climate change on various aspects of cultural heritage, including historic buildings, buried archaeology, parks, and gardens. The research was conducted in parallel with the release of climate change scenarios and regional assessments. The methodology involved reviewing climate change literature, conducting a questionnaire, visiting sites, and organizing workshops with experts and policymakers. The study integrates evidence from climate and heritage specialists to identify physical transformations occurring in cultural heritage due to climate change. The paper concludes with policy recommendations based on the findings.

Cohen, A. H., & Krueger, J. S. (2016). Rising Mercury, Rising Hostility. Field Methods, 28, 133-152. 

  • This article explores the connection between high temperatures and survey responses, specifically focusing on the relationship between hot weather and attitudes towards policies related to racial minorities. Drawing on data from the National Climatic Data Center and the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the study finds that higher average daily temperatures above 74°F are associated with preferences for stricter immigration policies and opposition to permissive affirmative action policies. These findings suggest that hot temperatures contribute to the expression of aggression, irritation, and negativity in survey responses, highlighting the importance of considering contextual variables in estimating public opinion on these issues.

De La Bellacasa, M. P. (2011). Matters Of Care In Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things. Social Studies Of Science, 41, 85-106. 

  • This paper promotes an ethos of care within the field of science and technology studies (STS). It explores Bruno Latour’s concept of “matters of concern” as a means to understand the ethical and political implications of constructivist approaches in STS. The paper argues for the inclusion of care in this framework, highlighting the critical dimension that Latour’s politics of things often overlooks. By drawing on feminist knowledge politics, the author suggests considering matters of fact and sociotechnical assemblages as “matters of care” and emphasizes the importance of speculative engagement with overlooked elements in order to cultivate a sense of care.

Escobar, A. (2016). Thinking-Feeling With The Earth: Territorial Struggles And The Ontological Dimension Of The Epistemologies Of The South. Aibr, Revista De Antropología Iberoamericana, 11, 11-32. 

  • This article explores the theoretical framework of Epistemologies of the South, proposed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, as a means to recognize diverse ways of understanding the world beyond Western perspectives. It focuses on the concept of relational ontologies, which challenges the dominance of Eurocentric knowledge and highlights the importance of acknowledging and valuing popular knowledges and experiences. The article advocates for a transition towards a pluriverse inspired by Zapatista principles, where multiple perspectives and narratives coexist. It discusses indigenous resistance to mining practices as examples of ontological occupation of the land. The article argues that the knowledge offered by Epistemologies of the South is more transformative for social change than the knowledge generated within academia.

Gómez-Barris, M. (2017). The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies And Decolonial Perspectives. Duke University Press. 

  • “The Extractive Zone” by Macarena Gómez-Barris explores the resistance movements and creative practices that challenge the harmful impacts of extractive capitalism in indigenous regions of South America. Gómez-Barris examines the political, aesthetic, and performative strategies employed by Indigenous activists, intellectuals, and artists in these extractive zones. By integrating decolonial theory with race, sexuality, and critical Indigenous studies, the author develops new frameworks for envisioning alternative social and political possibilities. The book highlights the work of artists such as Huichaqueo Perez and Carolina Caycedo, who employ decolonial aesthetics, and explores the decolonizing politics of feminist and environmental collectives. Gómez-Barris emphasizes the persistence of colonial legacies while uncovering emerging modes of existence that transcend the destructive forces of extractive capital.

Gumo, S., Gisege, S. O., Raballah, E., & Ouma, C. (2012). Communicating African Spirituality Through Ecology: Challenges And Prospects For The 21st Century. Religions, 3, 523-543. 

  • This review explores the intersection of African spirituality and ecology, focusing on the Kenyan context. Drawing from existing literature, the review examines African worldviews, the role of the environment in expressing African spirituality, traditional methods of environmental regulation, and the current challenges faced by African spirituality and ecology. The findings highlight how African spirituality is deeply connected to the environment, with reverence for all aspects of nature. The review also reveals the use of various methods to conserve natural resources as a means of protecting the environment. However, it notes that African spirituality and ecology are currently facing sustainability challenges. To address these challenges, the review suggests the conservation of environmental diversity through sustainable development and the active involvement of individuals at all levels in protecting and preserving nature. The conclusion emphasizes the potential revitalization of African knowledge and belief systems in promoting environmental conservation.

Nixon, R. (2011). Slow violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University Press. 

  • This book, authored by Rob Nixon, explores the concept of “slow violence” to shed light on the gradual and often overlooked violence caused by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and environmental impacts of war. Nixon argues that these forms of violence are typically ignored by a profit-driven capitalism, exacerbating the vulnerability of ecosystems and marginalized communities who are disproportionately affected. The book takes a transnational perspective, examining the works of writer-activists from the global South who are affiliated with environmentalism for the poor. Nixon critiques the limitations of national and local frames in environmental writing and highlights the strategies employed by these writer-activists to bring attention to environmental emergencies. By doing so, Nixon invites readers to confront and engage with the urgent challenges of our time.

Orr, Yancey, J. Stephen Lansing, and Michael R. Dove. (2015). Environmental Anthropology: Systemic Perspectives. Annual Review of Anthropology, 44, 153-168. 

  • This overview highlights the developments in environmental anthropology since 1980, focusing on three key themes: systems ecology, political ecology, and cognitive science. The concept of the Anthropocene, which recognizes the profound impact of human activities on the environment, has long been familiar to anthropologists. Environmental anthropology has gained prominence as a result, leading to a diverse research agenda that draws from multiple disciplines. The increased interest in studying coupled human and natural systems reflects a growing recognition of the role humans play in shaping the global environment. The integration of social and natural sciences in this field is driven by both academic considerations and a heightened concern for the environmental challenges we face.

Petryna, A. (2022). Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Princeton University Press.

  • This book examines the impact of climate change on our ability to predict and respond to environmental crises. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, Earth’s ecosystems become increasingly unstable and unpredictable. Petryna explores the concept of “horizoning,” a mode of reckoning that considers unnatural disasters against a backdrop of expectations and actions. She discusses the experiences of wildfire scientists and wildland firefighters who must revise their predictive models and abandon reliance on past patterns due to shifting fire behaviors. The book emphasizes the importance of scientific and ethical labor in combating climate chaos and highlights the potential of horizoning to reverse harmful legacies and foster collective action for recoverable futures. “Horizon Work” offers insights into confronting the stark realities of climate change and turning projection uncertainties into spaces of opportunity.

Thamae, M. L., & Pottinger, L. (2006). On The Wrong Side Of Development: Lessons Learned From The Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Transformation Resource Centre. 

  • This booklet provides a summary of the “lessons learned” from monitoring the impacts of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, the largest water project in Africa. It aims to inform various stakeholders, including financial institutions, project authorities, developers, environmental consultants, and governments, on how to ensure that large development projects are human-centered and benefit the communities directly affected by them. The booklet emphasizes the need for collaboration among governments, project funders, engineers, and social and environmental scientists to prioritize the concerns of project-affected communities and make them the beneficiaries of development projects. It also seeks to empower communities by raising awareness of their rights and providing guidance on accessing resources and shaping their own future. While the Lesotho Highlands Water Project has received recognition for its engineering achievements, it has also had adverse effects on rural communities in the region. The booklet aims to learn from past mistakes and promote future projects that prioritize community development and poverty alleviation.

Williams, A., & Le Billon, P. (2017). Corruption, Natural Resources And Development: From Resource Curse To Political Ecology. Edward Elgar Publishing. 

  • This book offers a comprehensive exploration of corruption in natural resources sectors. Drawing on contemporary discussions in corruption research and incorporating insights from political ecology, the volume presents a collection of insightful case studies that examine corruption patterns in natural resource contexts and propose strategies to combat corruption. The book delves into the potential manifestations of the resource curse in sectors such as forests and urban land, and assesses the effectiveness of anti-corruption policies in resource sectors. It covers a range of industries including oil, gas, mining, fisheries, biofuel, wildlife, forestry, and urban land, while also offering potential solutions to address corruption in these sectors.

Chance, K. C. (2015). “Where there is fire, there is politics“: Ungovernability and Material Life in Urban South Africa. Cultural Anthropology, 30(3), 394-423. 

  • This article examines the role of fire in state-citizen struggles within the context of South Africa’s democratic transition. Drawing on theories of liberal governance, material life, and popular politics, the study explores how the urban poor utilize fire as a tool to assert their rights to energy infrastructure and demand political and economic inclusion. By considering fire as both a social and chemical process, the article highlights its significance as a site where infrastructure promises and risks intersect. The analysis reveals how marginalized communities on the outskirts of the city assume political roles that reshape economic dynamics within the framework of liberalism.

Chari, S. (2009). Photographing dispossession, forgetting solidarity: waiting for social justice in Wentworth, South Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 34, 521-540. 

  • This paper examines the fragmented and discontinuous landscape of contemporary South Africa, focusing on the Coloured neighbourhood of Wentworth in Durban. Through an analysis of various photographs from different historical periods, including images of concentration camp inmates, township youth, black political activism, and post-apartheid life, the study explores how these images serve as temporal artifacts that reveal different aspects of the past and critique the present. The paper emphasizes the political uses of photography and the potential for these images to provoke recognition, connections, and solidarity with subaltern perspectives on racial space and subjectivity. It argues for a relational approach to viewing photographs in order to understand the ongoing struggle for justice and the experience of anticipatory frustration in contemporary South Africa.

Okri, B. (1997). A Way of Being Free. London: Phoenix. 

  • Okri uses fictional worlds to explore the impact of violent postcolonial history on individuals’ existential “nervous conditions” and their struggle to redefine concepts of freedom, authenticity, and community.

Roberts, D., & O’Donoghue, S. (2013). Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa. Environment & Urbanization, 25, 299-319. 

  • This paper reflects on the progress made in climate change adaptation in the city of Durban since the launch of the Municipal Climate Protection Programme in 2004. It discusses the initial challenges faced in garnering the attention of key sectors within municipal government and how these challenges were addressed through a better understanding of adaptation options and their cost-benefits. The paper also examines the potentials and constraints of community-based adaptation and the resistance from some landowners towards measures aimed at protecting and enhancing ecosystem services. Lessons learned are presented, challenging common assumptions and highlighting approaches that build support for climate change adaptation within local governments. The paper emphasizes the linkages between local action and international influence and calls for international climate change negotiations to recognize the crucial role of urban governments in developing locally rooted adaptation and resilience.

Scott, D., & Barnett, C. (2009). Something in the Air: Civic science and contentious environmental politics in post-apartheid South Africa. Geoforum, 40(3), 373-382. 

  • This paper explores the emergence of an environmental movement in post-apartheid South Africa and its framing of environmental issues as matters of social and environmental justice. The movement employs a dual strategy of deliberation and activist opposition, utilizing science to challenge dominant approaches to environmental governance. Local environmental movements face tension between lay knowledge and official data, leading them to strategically employ “civic science” to raise awareness of air pollution. The paper examines the case of environmental politics in Durban, highlighting the production and dissemination of community hybrid knowledge through civic science and lay knowledge. The deployment of hybrid knowledge by environmental movements challenges the authority of science and technology, shedding light on the hazards and risks faced by ordinary people in their daily lives.

Reading List

Chari, Sharad (2013). Detritus in Durban: Polluted Environs and the Biopolitics of Refusal, in Stoler, Ann L. (ed.) Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 131-161. Link

Charlotte, Bruckermann (2020). Green Freeze: Fueling Discontent with Environmental Metrics. Available from: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/green-freeze-fueling-discontent-with-environmental-metrics (Retrieved 19 July 2022).

Chance, Kerry R. (2020). Governing through Eco-Anxiety. Available from: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/governing-through-eco-anxiety (Retrieved 19 July 2022). 

Ghertner, Asher D. (2021). Postcolonial Atmospheres: Air’s Coloniality and the Climate of Enclosure. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(5), 1483-1502. Link

Jolaosho, Omotayo T. (2021). The Enduring Urgency of Black Breath. Available from: https://www.anthropology-news.org/articles/the-enduring-urgency-of-black-breath/ (Retrieved 19 July 2022).

Kenner, Alison (2018). Breathtaking: Asthma Care in a Time of Climate Change. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lussem, Felix (2021). Alienating “Facts” and Uneven Futures of Energy Transition. Available from: https://www.focaalblog.com/2021/04/07/felix-lussem-alienating-facts-and-uneven-futures-of-energy-transition/ (Retrieved 19 July 2022).

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