Title

The Normalized Toxic Body: A Site for Theorizing a Democratic, Ecological Politics

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

Where toxics were once identified with the deviant, the venomous, and the profane—we are all toxic now. Building upon the work of contemporary green political theorists, material feminists, and scholars of cultural and science studies, this project theorizes from the site of the normalized toxic body as a means to envision a coalitional politics that bridges current divides between environmentalists and advocates of environmental justice as well as those between greens and feminists. The normalized toxic body emphasizes the porosity of human bodies and the extent to which we are all deeply embedded in both environmental and cultural flows,while turning our attention to the myriad spaces that bodies inhabit and the differential effects of environment in constructing human bodies.It makes apparent the fact that not all human bodies are similarly positioned or equally open to the multiple material flows that form the networks of life (and death). It also calls into question key concepts in contemporary liberal political thought such as agency, autonomy, recognition and obligation. Rethinking these concepts from the site of the normalized toxic body offers one potential foundation for a coalitional politics that addresses the concerns of both environmental degradation and social justice.

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