The Politics of Asbestos: Understandings of Risk, Disease and Protest, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Politics of Asbestos

Understandings of Risk, Disease and Protest, 1st Edition

By Linda Waldman


232 pages

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Around the world, asbestos-related diseases are on the increase. Meanwhile, in many newly-industrializing and developing countries, asbestos use continues unabated. This book, based on anthropological fieldwork in the UK, India and South Africa, explores people's understandings of their illness, risk, compensation and regulation, contrasting these personal and community narratives with formal medical and legal understandings.

Linda Waldman shows how the domination of medical and legal framings of risk and disease over those of workers, sufferers and activists can narrow the responses chosen by government. This provides important lessons for researchers, policy makers and regulators, demonstrating that opening up to alternative understandings can create more effective policy responses to move towards sustainability and social justice.

Published in association with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).


'Combining Anthropology with Science and Technology Studies, and providing case studies from India, South Africa and the UK, The Politics of Asbestos is passionately written, theoretically engaged and empirically rich. It deserves to be widely read.' Peter Newell, Professor of International Development, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom 'Writing in a clear and simple style, Linda Waldman sets out a fascinating narrative spanning three continents.' Usha Ramanathan, Independent law researcher, Delhi, India 'This engrossing book interweaves the global politics of science with the intimacies of identity and provides an innovative methodological model for exploring comparative case studies at a large scale.' Fiona Ross, Associate Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, South Africa 'Through the different case studies, Linda Waldman draws out the intersecting, and at times, conflicting ways in which asbestos destroys, disempowers, galvanises, mobilises and even empowers people in pursuit of social justice, compensation and benefits.' Dinah Rajak, Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Problem of Asbestos 2. 'I've Got the Dust As Well': Asbestos Litigation, Pleural Plaques and Masculinity in the UK 3. Evaluating Science and Risk: Living with and Dying from Asbestos in South Africa 4. 'Show me the Evidence': Science and Risk in Indian Asbestos Issues 5. 'Through no Fault of Our Own': Asbestos Diseases in South Africa and the UK 6. Re-framing Risk: Comparative Framings of Asbestos and Disease 7. Conclusion: Diseased Identities and Social Justice

About the Author

Linda Waldman is a Research Fellow in the Knowledge, Technology and Society Team at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex University. She is a social anthropologist whose research areas include indigenous identity and nationalism, environmental pollution, and asbestos disease and its socio-cultural ramifications.

About the Series

Pathways to Sustainability

Pathways to Sustainability Series

This book series addresses core challenges around linking science and technology and environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice. It is based on the work of the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre, a major investment of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The STEPS Centre brings together researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research) at the University of Sussex with a set of partner institutions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Series Editors:

Ian Scoones and Andy Stirling - STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex

Editorial Advisory Board:

Steve Bass, Wiebe E. Bijker, Victor Galaz, Wenzel Geissler, Katherine Homewood, Sheila Jasanoff, Melissa Leach, Colin McInnes, Suman Sahai, Andrew Scott

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Environmental Science