AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
Toxic exposures challenge habitual conceptions of self, systems, time, causation and consequence. Toxins are often pharmacons (having both beneficial or alluring and dangerous qualities), cross boundaries expected to be impermeable, and move through bodies and ecosystems in far from straightforward ways, often slowly and insidiously. Apprehending toxics thus calling for foundationally different ways of thinking, talking about, visualizing and acting on the world. I learned this first working as an ethnographer and activist supporting victims of the 1984 Bhopal chemical plant disaster as they struggled for legal legibility in India and the United States. The lessons continued as I began work on other disasters, fast (like the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster) and slow (everyday air pollution around the world). “Advocacy After Bhopal” was never straightforward but over time the mangle of corporate influence, Rightist politics, and the media have made advocacy even more complex. Currently, I work to sort out these complexities through pedagogy among different kinds of students -- in primary schools, engineering programs, and post 3-11 programs in Japan intended to build an international cadre of radiation health specialists. Most basically, I aim to teach how entrenched ways of thinking deflect and occlude toxics, enacting modes of expertise that easily work against scientific, legal, and clinical remedy (even while the need for well-honed expertise is high). In this presentation, I’ll share what have come to be my pedagogical goals, tactics, frustrations, and grand ambitions for conveying how to apprehend toxics in the contemporary world.