Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, I use the case study of the Republic of North Macedonia to explore the social, political, and economic context of urban air pollution in the European periphery after the collapse of socialism. In 2018, the Macedonian capital city of Skopje was declared Europe’s most polluted capital in terms of the potentially lethal concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 fine particles suspended in the air. Factors that play a key role in air pollution include fast urbanization, the continuation of socialist practices, such as burning wood and coal for home heating and industrial purposes, and the import of non-environmentally friendly vehicles from the European Union. Also, a medical waste incinerator, donated by the United Kingdom under the recommendation of the World Health Organization in 2001 and located on the capital’s outskirts, emits a noxious odor and adds to the foul atmosphere of Skopje. Against the background of such an extremely unhealthy urban environment, I am especially interested in how people make sense of toxic danger. I argue that the experience of human suffering caused by air pollution needs to be understood in the context of international marginalization and global inequality.