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Resigned ActivismLiving with Pollution in Rural China$
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Anna Lora-Wainwright

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036320

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036320.001.0001

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E-Waste Work: Hierarchies of Value and the Normalization of Pollution in Guiyu

E-Waste Work: Hierarchies of Value and the Normalization of Pollution in Guiyu

(p.125) 5 E-Waste Work: Hierarchies of Value and the Normalization of Pollution in Guiyu
Resigned Activism

Anna Lora-Wainwright

The MIT Press

The last substantive chapter examines a third case study which differs in important ways from the first two. Unlike Baocun and Qiancun, Guiyu town is a well-known, indeed a notorious environmental health hotspot. Pollution is caused by a vast and complex cottage industry processing electronic waste. Chapter 5 explores how such “e-waste work” became closely embedded within the local community, family and social relations, as domestic and work spaces were inextricably blurred. It disaggregates the black box of “e-waste work” to show how it evolved over time, the great diversity that composes the sector, how the government attempted to regulate particular activities within it and why their efforts were not fully effective. It shows that, as in Baocun and Qiancun, the economic benefits and environmental costs of these activities are unevenly distributed. By describing a range of diverse e-waste workers engaged in a spectrum of more or less polluting work, the chapter illustrates how locals fashion counter-discourses of relative harm to excuse their practices and avoid blame. In these circumstances, as in Baocun, toxicity is naturalised and parameters of health are adjusted to normalise and accept widespread pollution-induced ailments.

Keywords:   Electronic waste, Pollution as normal, Social stratification, Uncertainty, Power imbalance, Hierarchies of blame, Parameters of health

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