How is toxicity imagined? Theorized? Thought and talked about? Historicized?


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Prerna Srigyan's picture
February 10, 2020
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In late 1990s and early 2000s, entities inside Delhi were imagined as polluting the city and they were shifted out through legal processes, creating precarious conditions for factory workers and public transport drivers. The historian Awadhendra Sharan has documented the history of urban planning and how it grappled with questions of toxicities of air, water, and waste in his book In the City, Out of Place: Nuisance, Pollution, and Dwelling in Delhi, C.1850-2000 by engaging with 150 years' worth of archival material. Now, however, the focus has shifted outside the megacity, even as it expands its borders. Where is the pollution coming from, people ask? Is it Punjab or the Middle East? There is an ongoing massively-funded megaproject to figure out the concentrations of toxics in Delhi. Its aim is to confront regulatory reforms posed by scalar re-making of Delhi's air. Binaries are being blurred and configured in ways specific to megacities: indoor-outdoor, rural/peri-urban/urban, state/center.