Accepted paper:

Towards a political ecology of air and breathing? A Polish encounter

Authors:

Irma Allen (KTH, Royal Institute of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore how a political ecology of air and breathing can call forth new human-non-human collectivities and claims in the postsocialist Polish context.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015, Stephen Graham called for greater attention to be paid to the political ecology of air - particularly urban air. As Peter Soleterdijk (2009: 32) notes, air constitutes an implicit condition of existence. And yet, Graham (2015) argues, social theory has paid little attention to it, despite the fact that air pollution is the world's biggest public health crisis. Coal-based energy often creates the worst mortality. In Poland, Krakow has one of the worst air qualities in the world due to coal-induced smog. How do concerns and conflicts over air quality shape the city and its imagined future? How are uneven geographies of air produced and consumed? What about the act of breathing itself? Breathing can be thought of as the basic human-nature encounter - the metabolic act in which the materiality of human and more-than-human intermingle and transmute one another. How can the act of breathing be understood as an ontological 'challenge' to 'economic hegemony' (Pope 2013) in this context? Who or what can be understood to breathe? And what does breathing undo in terms of a human-nature dichotomy enshrined within an imported modernity for Poland? This paper will explore how a political ecology of air and breathing can call forth new human-non-human collectivities and claims in the postsocialist Polish context.

panel P01
Exposure: interdisciplinary perspectives on breath, air and atmospheres