B13
Adding to the Air

Convenors:
Jane Macnaughton (Durham University)
Tom Widger (Durham University)
Edward Stevenson (Durham University)
Andrew Russell (Durham University)
Stream:
Identities and Subjectivities
Location:
Room 06
Sessions:
Wednesday 4 September, 9:00-10:30, 11:00-12:30

Short abstract:

We invite anthropological insights to the additions that people make to the air, from pollutants to perfumes, and their perceptions and lived experiences across local contexts. How are these substances translated - in an embodied sense - into harm or benefit to individuals and communities?

Long abstract:

Ever since Hippocrates' Airs, Waters, and Places, fresh air has been associated with health. Growing awareness of the serious health effects of air pollution have reinforced this association, dovetailing with the modern anxieties described in Sloterdijk's Terror from the Air. But additions to the air are not always terrifying. Along with chemicals and other pollutants that might be deliberately (or unwittingly) introduced are many substances that are willingly breathed. Smokes, smells, ions and particles - in forms such as incense, drugs, medicines, fumigants and fuels - support lifestyles and experiences that are variously seen as desirable, detestable or unavoidable, despite the dangers inherent in their use and abuse. A commodity infrastructure has developed around many of these products (e.g. the aromatherapies, frankincense, tobacco, agarbathi, even oxygen) as well as means of monitoring or preventing the flow of unwanted airs into our homes and/or our bodies. This panel seeks contributions from people who have anthropological insights to offer about additions made to the air and people's perceptions and lived experiences of them. How are these substances translated - in an embodied sense - into harm or benefit to individuals and communities? By taking a global view on substances that problematize 'fresh air' as the sine qua non of health and well-being, can we reach any conclusions as to how best to address the challenges these elements raise that are both contextually specific but globally relevant?