Another Angle on Pollution Experience: Toward an Anthropology of the Emotional Ecology of Risk Mitigation


  • Peter C. Little


Environmental contamination is socially experienced as environmental suffering, bodily distress, frustration, and even pain. Drawing on an ethnographic case study of a contaminated community in New York, I engage the complex and variegated ways in which angst, frustration, and uncertainty linger even after state and corporate scientific schemes to mitigate environmental disaster and contamination are initiated. Inspired by emerging discussions of “emotional geography,” I explore how in a sociospatial context where residents live in homes mitigated for intrusive toxic substances, frustration, and uncertainty—both frequent problems experienced by residents living in environments threatened by hazardous substances—continue to inform the pollution experience. Moreover, I address how ethnographic narrative exposes what I call the “emotional ecology of risk mitigation.”