Intimate exposures: Linking pesticides to body and economy

Authors: Ciara Segura*, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Rural Geography, Political Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Farm workers, feminist geography, agriculture, environmental justice, pesticides, regulation, the state
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores how pesticides and immigrant farmworkers - through their instrumental roles in California’s agricultural economy - link distant places, people and political-economic processes. Pesticides transgress corporeal and environmental boundaries as they enter bodies, soil, water and air; whose movement, much like the trajectories of farm labor across California over the last century, is shaped by transnational capitalist market forces. I situate farmworkers exposure to pesticides within the current political moment of hostile immigration policy, poor healthcare infrastructure, and the inaccessibility of state regulatory institutions. While not overtly connected, both the U.S.’s long legacy of racist immigration law and its approach to environmental risk assessment demarcate bodies worthy of protection and those who are not. In a region whose agricultural abundance is dependent on heavy chemical-inputs and an immigrant labor force, chronic pesticide exposure in farmworker communities has become a naturalized and almost necessary effect of the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural economy. Tracing connections between intimate and global scales, and emphasizing their mutual constitution, complicate the boundaries mapped onto embodied and topographic space. Through an engagement with feminist geographic approaches to the global-intimate, I link the “intimate” scale of the body to the “global” scale of economy to reveal how seemingly unrelated people and places are in fact connected and constitutive of each other (Mountz and Hyndman, 2001) and follow the multidirectional flows between places and across different scales to highlight how rural and immigrant communities make California’s agricultural dominance possible.

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