The University of Arizona

Employment, environmental pollution and working class life in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vanesa Castán Broto


People's experiences of a polluted space are intimately linked with their relative concerns for quality of life and livelihoods. Thus quality of environment and security of employment are two closely related issues in social conflicts over environmental pollution. Rather than being implicated in a trade-off relationship, environmental quality and job provision are both part of the life of community residents. Bringing together the literature on the political ecology of environmental conflicts and the social constructionist literature on public perceptions of environmental risks, this article argues that the working class and disadvantaged sections of society are often confronted with alliances between the industry, institutions and other stakeholders which may serve to legitimate a particular configuration of things in which the appropriation of some resources by the industry is regarded as legitimate. However, these arrangements are unstable: they are subject to constant renegotiation between the social groups implicated. Thus, how the emergence of concerns about the local environment relates to preoccupations about the state of the local economy is related to a process whereby these relationships are constructed and re-negotiated. These questions are analyzed using a case study of environmental pollution from coal-energy production in the city of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The case shows that both concerns for the environment and unemployment are articulated simultaneously in the context of industrial pollution, together with the redefinition of the socio-economic landscapes of post-industrial Tuzla.

Keywords: Environmental pollution, employment, working-class life, social constructionism, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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