Fall 2024

Anthropology of Toxicity: Environment, Exposure and Inequality

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as ANTH-378


Victoria Nguyen (Section 01)


Toxins today pervade our lives and bodies. Yet they remain difficult to pin down, simultaneously ubiquitous and elusive, proliferating harm as well as uncertainty. With an eye toward these contradictions, this course begins by asking: What is toxicity? How does it enter our awareness? Who bears the burden of its designation? From here, we consider how the uncertainty of toxic exposure shapes the politics of evidence, social difference, and assumptions about the integrity of bodies and nations. Throughout our readings, we interrogate the relationship between toxicity, politics, memory, and remedy to explore how living in a toxic world requires technical, ethical and aesthetic modes of understanding. Connecting ethnographies of environmental exposure and contamination with larger contexts, histories, and settler colonial logics, we investigate relations of segregation, contingency, and kinship in uneven terrains of vulnerability and risk.

Limited to 21 students.  Fall semester.  Assistant Professor Nguyen.

How to handle overenrollment: Anthropology and Sociology majors given first priority, second priority given to balancing sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: an emphasis on close reading, discussion, and written assignments.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2024