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Cultural Studies Program

Courses :: CULS C701 Topic: TOXIC BODIES

CMCL C661 Environmental Communication and Public Culture; CULS C701
Spring 2012 12-2:30pm Tuesdays in C272 or “Brigance Library” of C.O.B.

Professor Phaedra C. Pezzullo, Office 231 (C.O.B.) 800 East Third St.;
Discourse about toxic bodies—intersex fish, five-legged frogs, “pre-polluted” babies, children with asthma, adults with breast cancer, veterans with Gulf War-related illnesses—abounds in these times. Our responses to these bodies—including our own bodies, to greater and lesser degrees—are telling indicators of how we feel about what and who is normal, acceptable, and worth saving, as well as what and who is not. Informed by feminist theories of intersectionality, cultural studies theories of resistance, and environmental justice scholarship on the intertwined relationship between environmental quality and social justice, this seminar aims to explore the cultural and political conditions that have made possible toxic bodies and the movements that are emerging in response to them.
Questions we will discuss may include: how have nature, biology, culture, and technology intertwined in ways that blur boundaries between each of these categories? What are the stakes of troubling bodies? Which legal, economic, and political frames of body politics enable toxic cultures? How do we decide which bodies constitute a “new normal” and which should provoke concern? Is there a value to characterizing these times in terms of biopolitics or necropolitics? How can we reimagine citizenship through toxic pollution (via mobility, stigma, property, consent, etc.)? How do health and illness shape our political imaginaries? How do we resist literal pollution without further stigmatizing or marginalizing those most impacted or other nonnormative bodies? What can we learn from movements of anti-toxic advocacy? Is the Precautionary Principle an ethical and viable goal in contrast to seemingly related logics, such as preemptive war? Since environmental sustainability is defined as a commitment to future generations, what can cultural critics who theorize the future gain from this paradigm and vice versa?
            Discussions and final papers will engage bodies (human or nonhuman) literally polluted by toxics or metaphorically imagined as “polluted,” as well as movements mobilized around and by toxic bodies.

Required books will include:
Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement Phil Brown (Columbia
University Press, 2007)978-0-231-12948-0
Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self, Stacy Alaimo (IU Press, 2010) 978-0253222404

Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge, Linda Nash (U of CA P, 2007) 978-0520248878

Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine Sarah D. Phillips (IU Press, 2010)

Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers, Michelle Murphy (DukeUP, 2006) 978-0822336716

Sense of Place and Sense of the Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global, Ursula K. Heise(Oxford, 2008) 978-0195335644

Territories of Difference: place, movements, life, redes, Arturo Escobar (Duke UP, 2008) 978-0822343271

E-Reserves likely will include readings from authors such as: Michel Foucault, Achille Mbembe, Giorgio Agamben, Nicole R. Fleetwood, Raymond Williams, Giovanna Di Chiro, Mary Douglas, Donna Haraway, Lawrence Grossberg, Stephen Muecke, Raymond Williams, Lee Edelman, Jose Muñoz, Jennifer Darryl Slack, Jody Berland, and Catriona Sandilands.