Cities Exposed: Exposure and Contamination in Dense Urban Worlds

Type: Paper
Theme: Geographies of Human Rights: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Cabinet Room, Omni, West
Organizers: D. Asher Ghertner, Rosalind Fredericks
Chairs: D. Asher Ghertner


Cities concentrate things, exposing them to other things often not designed to be placed together in the densities encountered: leaded water, waste leachate, gas leaks, automobile exhaust, bed bugs, to list but a few. While agglomerating economic and symbolic functions, cities also agglomerate vulnerabilities and violences, placing bodies in relations of collective dependence but also exposing them to heightened environmental and social risk, from extreme weather events to industrial accidents and terrorism. This session brings together papers exploring how bodies and the institutions and infrastructures that organize them become attuned to hazardous urban environments, asking not just what happens when the outside gets in, but how moral and cultural worlds form at the porous boundary between inside and outside. How might the political ecology of the body be read through and against the biopolitics of urban governance? How is exposure to toxicity—biochemical toxins as well as toxic socialities—apprehended and rendered (or not) as a political event? How might porosity itself enable political acts of persistence? How are uneven geographies of exposure normalized, and how are new collectives forged that exceed or remake those geographies? While the provocation of the Anthropocene recognizes new intensities of exposure as the basis for a collective human life at risk, presenters here insist that differentiated urban and regional histories shape how life is itself defined and recognized. We thereby seek to expose the Anthropocene to different ethical considerations. From embodied precarities on Dakar’s dump, to the legal geography of air pollution in Delhi, to the silences of petro-chemical exposure in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, to geographies of isolation among the chronically ill in North America, we use concerns with postcolonial justice, gendered social reproduction, bodily marginality, and social abandonment to comparatively explore the contaminations of urban political life.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Rosalind Fredericks*, New York University, Precarious Bodies, Embodied Knowledges: Gendered infrastructures of discard in Dakar, Senegal 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Gabriela Valdivia*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Minor analytics of oil, life, and well-being in Esmeraldas, Ecuador 20 5:20 PM
Presenter D. Asher Ghertner*, Rutgers University, Airpocalypse: Distributions of Life Amidst Delhi’s Polluted Airs 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Paul Jackson*, University of Delaware, Nari Kim, University of Delaware, Political Ecology of Isolation: Seeking Shelter from Slow Violence 20 6:00 PM
Discussant Becky Mansfield The Ohio State University 20 6:20 PM

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