Anna Lora-Wainwright (2013). The inadequate life: Rural industrial pollution and lay epidemiology in China. The China Quarterly. doi:10.1017/S0305741013000349.
Based on fieldwork in a heavily industrialized Yunnan village, this article examines how villagers understand and respond to pollution-related health risks. Building on Robert Weller’s (2006) concept of environmental consciousness, it shows that Baocun villagers have developed an acute environmental health consciousness. However, despite earlier instances of collective activism, they no longer act as a community to oppose the harm to their bodies caused by pollution. The article investigates the role of uncertainty surrounding illness causation in deterring action. It argues that uncertainty about pollution’s effects on health is reinforced by the social, political and economic contexts and developments in the past few decades. As a result, villagers engage in a form of “lay epidemiology” to make sense of the effects of pollution on their health, but not in a “popular epidemiology” consisting of collective action against presumed health damages. The article concludes with some thoughts on how locals act within and despite uncertainty.
Anna Lora-Wainwright research
Anna’s work embodies a particular synergy between human geography and the study of China and focuses on environmental pollution, development and health in the Chinese countryside. She is a keen supporter of long-term ethnographic field research and since 2004 she has carried out a total of 18 months of fieldwork in Southwest China (Sichuan province and more recently Yunnan). Her work is concerned with unpacking the naturalisation of perceptions of health and pollution, how they are produced and their political economic overtones (for instance how dependence on a nearby factory might make pollution acceptable). This offers a new type of bottom-up political ecology, which does not assume local communities are passive and isolated victims of development and capitalist oppression, nor that they are inherently ‘nature-friendly’ but focuses on the agency of farmers or workers in polluting industries, potential conflicts of interests and attitudes to ‘clean nature’ versus ‘pollution’. More information
Recent academic Journal Papers
- Introduction: Dying for development: pollution, illness and the limits of citizens’ agency in China. The China Quarterly: 1-12.
- The inadequate life: rural industrial pollution and lay epidemiology in China. The China Quarterly: 1-19.
- Plural forms of evidence and uncertainty in environmental health: a comparison of two Chinese cases. Evidence and Policy, 9(1): 49-64.
- Rural China in ruins: the rush to urbanize China’s countryside is opening a moral battleground. Anthropology Today, 28(4): 8-13.
- Lora-Wainwright, A., Zhang, Y., Wu, Y. and Van Rooij, B. (2012) Learning to live with pollution: the making of environmental subjects in a Chinese industrialized village. The China Journal, 68(July 2012): 106-124.
- van Rooij, B., Lora-Wainwright, A., Wu, Y. and Zhang, Y. (2012) The compensation trap: the limits of community based regulation of pollution in China. PACE Environmental Law Review, 29(3): 701-745.