AnthroTox. Combining social and natural sciences to understand and manage global anthropogenic toxicants

AnthroTox brings together social anthropologists, historians and STS-scholars, environmental toxicologists and chemists, to understand how environmental, social and political-economic processes shape flows and impacts of anthropogenic toxicants across societies and ecosystems, and to contribute to public debate, policy processes and remedial action.

To begin, AnthroTox focuses on persistent organic pollutants from electronic waste in Tanzania. Pollution by POPs is a cumulative global environmental problem, since POPs travel long distances, passively with atmospheric and sea currents, and actively with trade in industrial products and waste. They accumulate in the food chain, affecting animal and human life, including reproduction, immune function, and carcinogenesis. From their origin in industrial Production, to their release into the environment, POPs engage with social, cultural and economic processes. For political‐economic and climatic reasons, East Africa attracts large amounts of these hazardous substances, raising questions of environmental justice, and a need for empirical data.

Our investigations on Tanzanian e-POPs will build a sustainable interdisciplinary foundation for future collaborations on global anthropogenic toxicants. In the longer term, AnthroTox’ scope will broaden through other projects, looking at other toxic substances and contrasting the tropics to arctic environments.

ABOVE: Vegetable gardening on closed solid waste dump, Zanzibar, Tanzania (c) Geissler

BELOW: Dismantling PCs in a recycling plant, Dar es salaam, Tanzania (c) Rolf Vogt

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To understand:

  • social processes related to the spread of toxicants, and activities leading to exposure and harmful effects, as well as local and international risk-containing and regulation efforts.
  • the role of historical processes, postcolonial situation and global political economy in production, distribution, effects and handling of toxicants
  • relationships between ecosystem exposures of anthropogenic toxicants and chemical management strategies (waste handling and regulatory efforts).

To contribute to:

  • national and international policy and regulatory processes pertaining to environmental toxicants.
  • local, national and transnational forms of environmental engagement and activism.
  • public debate on ethics, political economy and policy concerning environmental pollution.
Tags: waste, environment, Africa, toxins, pollution, regulation, STS, science studies, anthropology, ethnography
Published May 15, 2017 2:18 PM - Last modified Mar. 1, 2018 11:17 AM