Accepted Paper:

Toxic capacities: chemopolitics and the horror of late industrialism  


Nicholas Beuret (University of Essex)

Paper short abstract:

Working through autoethnographic scenes, this paper explores the horror of lead poisoning, untangling what it means to practice politics within the never-quite-confirmed allegations and conspiracies of late industrialism where the very capacity to act and be social has been rendered toxic.

Paper long abstract:

In February 2017 while living in the USA, my partner and I took our kids for a routine blood test where the nurse told us that they had an 'acceptable' amount of lead in their blood. In the months that followed we were introduced to the affects and practices of chemopolitics: a form of politics where the quiet horror of toxicity works to undermine conventional notions of political action.

What we find in the contamination zones of late industrialism is not the accumulation of awareness and the accretion of facts, but that the slow violence of everyday toxicity never moves past allegations, fragments, and conspiracies. It compels an amateur science that functions without validation within policy and governmental terrains. Campaigns for justice never seem to find restitution, only the recognition of damaged capacities. This moment is one of horror, where there are no clear events around which political activity or collective subjectivity can form, and we do not know what it is that has been done to us, only that our very capacity to act has been rendered toxic.

Exploring what it means when our capacities to act, be and know are transformed by the toxicities of late industrialism through autoethnographic fragments, this paper sets out an account of the horrific affects and practices of chemopolitics, asking what it means to live within the never-quite-confirmed allegations and conspiracies of the Anthropocene.

Panel A04
Involving compounds