The University of Arizona

Envisioning the political ecology of mitigation in a microelectronic disaster setting

Peter C. Little

Abstract


This article draws on ethnographic data to explore lived experiences and narratives of mitigation unfolding in a toxic waste site in Endicott, New York, the birthplace of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and the location of a contentious U.S. EPA Superfund Site. It introduces the political ecology of mitigation concept and showcases how this critical approach to toxics repair can inform contemporary environmental social science discussions of environmental contamination and risk society. Envisioning the political ecology of mitigation, it is argued, calls for an ethnographic approach cognizant of politics of knowledge and expertise that invoke competing visions of mitigation in general and the efficacy of mitigation technologies and science in particular. Mitigation decisions are political and not simply scientific decisions. The political ecology of mitigation explored here pays close attention to the practices and processes through which toxics mitigation is wielded and negotiated. It shows how such practices and processes may inform contemporary perspectives on toxic neoliberal environments and ecologies.

Key words: political ecology, toxics mitigation, IBM, neoliberalism, ethnography


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v20i1.21765