Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown

Paperback | October 4, 2009

byJavier Auyero, Debora Alejandra Swistun

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Surrounded by one of the largest petrochemical compounds in Argentina, a highly polluted river that brings the toxic waste of tanneries and other industries, a hazardous and largely unsupervised waste incinerator, and an unmonitored landfill, Flammable's soil, air, and water are contaminatedwith lead, chromium, benzene, and other chemicals. So are its nearly five thousand sickened and frail inhabitants. How do poor people make sense of and cope with toxic pollution? Why do they fail to understand what is objectively a clear and present danger? How are perceptions and misperceptionsshared within a community? Based on archival research and two and a half years of collaborative ethnographic fieldwork in Flammable, this book examines the lived experiences of environmental suffering. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, residents allow themselves to doubt or even deny the hard facts of industrialpollution. This happens, the authors argue, through a "labor of confusion" enabled by state officials who frequently raise the issue of relocation and just as frequently suspend it; by the companies who fund local health care but assert that the area is unfit for human residence; by doctors who saythe illnesses are no different from anywhere else but tell mothers they must leave the neighborhood if their families are to be cured; by journalists who randomly appear and focus on the most extreme aspects of life there; and by lawyers who encourage residents to hold out for a settlement. Thesecontradictory actions, advice, and information work together to shape the confused experience of living in danger and ultimately translates into a long, ineffective, and uncertain waiting time, a time dictated by powerful interests and shared by all marginalized groups. With luminous and vivid descriptions of everyday life in the neighborhood, Auyero and Swistun depict this on-going slow motion human and environmental disaster and dissect the manifold ways in which it is experienced by Flammable residents.

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Surrounded by one of the largest petrochemical compounds in Argentina, a highly polluted river that brings the toxic waste of tanneries and other industries, a hazardous and largely unsupervised waste incinerator, and an unmonitored landfill, Flammable's soil, air, and water are contaminatedwith lead, chromium, benzene, and other chemi...

Javier Auyero is Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Professor of Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas, and is the author of, among other books, Routine Politics and Collective Violence in Argentina. Debora Alejandra Swistun received her BA in Anthropology from the University of La Plata, Argentina.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.1 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:October 4, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019537293X

ISBN - 13:9780195372939

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