Phaedra C. Pezzullo
Associate Professor of
Rhetoric & Public Culture, Dept of Communication & Culture at
Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.).

An Indie Rock Band I never met wrote a song, "Toxic Tourism," inspired by my book...
check them out at:

Scroll down for reviews, table of contents, & toxic tour links on-line...



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Toxic Tourism:
Rhetorics of Travel, Pollution, and Environmental Justice

(University of Alabama Press, 2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8173-1550-4

**available now in paperback**

Toxic Tourism is the first book length study of "toxic tours" as a mode of advocacy for environmental justice in North America. In order to challenge life-threatening policy decisions, such tours illuminate the linkages between pollution and environmental injustices animated by racism, classism, the co-optation of feminism, and transnational treaties.
Praise for Toxic Tourism...

“Pezzullo’s topic and approach are as fresh as her subject matter is fetid…. This is excellent work because it points to the possibility of a more active and engaged type of tourism as opposed to a passive and alienated one.”
-- Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class

“A very stimulating read. I find myself wanting to bring Toxic Tourism up in conversations.”
-- Tarla Rai Peterson, author of Sharing the Earth: The Rhetoric of Sustainable Development

“Pezzullo’s book is thoughtfully developed, gracefully presented, with sprinkles of humor and pathos along the way. This book will be read for years to come by those interested in environmental justice and other indigenous social movements. In addition, this book serves as a model for how to conduct and present participant-observation research.”
-- Stephen P. Depoe, Excerpt from review in Quarterly Journal of Speech

Toxic Tourism adds to the growing body of literature in the relatively new field of environmental communication. It lays a useful theoretical foundation for understanding rhetorical tactics .... Pezzullo offers a politically engaged book reflecting her academic and activist background.”
-- Barbara E. Willard, Excerpt from review in Rhetoric Society Quarterly

“Pezzullo’s own background in communication studies is apparent as she deftly analyzes
the various speeches she hears and conversations she has with residents besieged by pollution.” -- Barbara L. Allen, Excerpt from review in Organization & Environment

“In Toxic Tourism, Phaedra Pezzullo shows us how touring moves beyond the simple notions of leisure travel, and should be considered a discursive production and performative act that opens the conversation for democratic engagement.”
-- Kristin Mroczek, Excerpt from review in Tourist Studies

“From start to finish, Toxic Tourism is top-rate scholarship...accessible and engaging.... [T]here is something for everybody: a nuanced engagement with popular culture, a cogent encounter with and across multiple literatures, and a text that draws in its readers and invites them on its own tour.
-- Matthew P. Brigham, Excerpt from review in Rhetoric & Public Affairs

"Like the tours about which she writes, Pezzullo invites not only critical reflection but also political action. She deftly demonstrates how innovative cultural practices of resistance are changing the face of the environmental justice movement and environmental politics, and, in doing so, are opening new sites for public engagement, participation and transformation."
-- Gwendolyn Blue, Excerpt from review in Cultural Studies

* Winner of the Winans/Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric/Public Address, 2007

* Winner of the Christine L. Oravec Research Award in Environmental Communication, 2007

* Winner of the Book of the Year Award in the Critical and Cultural Studies Division, 2007

CHOICE Review: "This volume pushes the literature on tourism into new directions, with progressive ends. Noting that the largest industry in the world, tourism, is itself often invasive, destructive, corrosive, and offensive, Pezzullo (communications, Indiana Univ.) demonstrates how noncommercial tours can serve as a rhetoric of resistance to mobilize public sentiment against toxic patterns and practices. That is, 'By weaving together social critiques of tourism and the responses of communities to the burdens of literal chemical toxicity, this book aims to bring into focus and hold accountable deeply embedded and highly problematic assumptions about travel, pollution, and democracy.' In particular, such experiential explorations of polluted areas serve to challenge the binary assumptions of society and environment and focus on racial, economic, and gendered cultural politics; that is, to shift the usual tourist gaze on the picturesque and nostalgic to that which is disgusting and grotesque as part of a revolutionary mission. After two introductory chapters that define terms, Pezzullo follows three case-study chapters with a conclusion and epilogue. The volume is well illustrated, referenced, and footnoted. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners."--Reviewed by B. Osborne.
From: Syndetics Solutions, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

Book News Annotation:"An effective tool for raising public awareness of egregious cases of pollution, so-called toxic tours highlight as well the disparate impact pollution has on low-income populations. In this well-researched study, Pezzullo (communication and culture, Indiana U.) describes the people, businesses, politics, environment, and histories of several toxic tours, while maintaining a focus on rhetoric and its use by those in power. Highlighting stubborn and prevalent attitudes and mores in American commerce and society, this study engages with questions of ethics and class as they are played out in the use of the environment." Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Purchasing information available at Powell's Books or or Barnes & Noble

Table of Contents for Toxic Tourism

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: A Challenge 1
Chapter One: Tourist Itineraries 24
Chapter Two: Toxic Baggage 52
Chapter Three: Sites and Sacralization 77
Chapter Four: Cancer and Cooptation 106
Chapter Five: Identification and Imagined Communities 138
Conclusion: All the Time in the World 172
Epilogue: And the Struggles Continue… 188
Appendix: Contact information for Advocacy Groups 193
Notes 195
Bibliography 231
Index 251

A profile of Prof. Pezzullo's book for IU's American Studies newsletter (pdf)

the struggle to achieve environmental justice continues...


Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) in Los Angeles, CA

Bay Area Toxic Tour

See also CBE's map and video on the Sundance Channel Website

East Houston Toxic Tour Video

Blog Post on "Chemical Valley" in Michigan




SUPERFUND 365 (a map)

Habitat Map (an EJ mapping project)

(* these are just a small sample...)

Compare also to Grayline's Katrina Tour (also on YouTube)

See also the landmark report: "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007:
Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States"

Comm Tech Lab & the Center for Microbial Ecology (Michigan State University)
"Microbe Zoo" Online


Website last updated: December 2009.

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