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Individual Paper: Toxic Bios - A guerrilla narrative project mapping contamination and resistance for emancipatory storytelling

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Toxic Bios is a public environmental humanities project eliciting and gathering autobiographical narratives of contamination and resistance, accessible through the online platform: Being conceived as a public environmental humanities project, Toxic Bios is rooted in the practices of co-research, developing what we have defined a guerrilla narrative methodology (Armiero 2004, Iengo and Armiero 2017), by which we mean the sabotage of toxic narratives (Wu Ming 2011), that reproduce or silence injustices (Barca 2014). The theoretical assumption beyond Toxic Bios is that the contaminated body has become a space for subjectification and politicization of the everyday life. Socio-environmental injustices caused through accumulation by contamination are embodied into the subaltern bodies which are contaminated twice: first by the toxic substances occupying their neighborhoods and lives in the name of economic growth and societal wealth, second by the toxic narratives which silence this injustice, invisibilize the sick body, and blame the victims. Against those toxic narratives of growth for the well-being of societies, Toxic Bios has experimented storytelling from the environmental margins as a fundamental tool in the making of identities which struggle to occupy the mainstream memory with counter-hegemonic narratives. Silencing those memories and erasing them from the collective past and the material landscape is parcel of the very injustices imposed on nature and subaltern people. The challenge of environmental justice is also a challenge for a narrative justice which can heal the toxicity of silenced experiences.
The bodily experience (Alaimo 2010) of injustice emerges in all the more than seventy stories Toxic Bios has gathered from Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Sweden, and Spain so far. Building upon the experience and the results of the Toxic Bios project, we will discuss how storytelling socio-environmental injustices holds the power of sabotaging the current socio-economic system that imposes the (re)production of sacrifice zones (Lerner 2012). While struggling against injustices, storytellers embody the alternatives to the very system that offsets its discards on them. Toxic autobiographies of mutualism among environmental justice struggles, grassroots initiatives of blockades and occupations against megaprojects and commoning practices of permaculture in the face of toxic waste dumping show a diverse and recalcitrant body of subjects producing alternative social ecologies (Kallis 2017) which repoliticize individuals and the environment.

Alaimo, S. 2010. Bodily natures: science, environment and the material self. Indiana University Press
Armiero, M. 2014. Teresa e le altre. Storie di donne nella terra dei fuochi. Milano: Edizioni Jaca Book.
Barca, S. 2014. Telling the right story: environmental violence and liberation narratives. Environment and History 20(4): 535-546
Iengo, I. Armiero, M. 2017. The politicization of ill bodies in Campania, Italy. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 44-58
Kallis, G. 2017. In Defense of Degrowth. Opinions and Minifestos. UnevenEarth Press
Lerner, S. 2012. Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States, MIT Press.
Wu Ming. 2011. How to tell a revolution from everything else. Chapel Hill: UNC Global Education Center, NC, April 5 2011.


Day: 2018-08-22
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Moriskan (Bistron)
Track: Climate Change, Climate and Environmental Justice



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