Toxic Embodiment

Call for papers for a themed issue on Toxic Embodiment, intended for Environmental Humanities journal, with guest editors Olga Cielemęcka and Cecilia Åsberg

Abstracts for full length papers due on January 15, 2017

This special issue on toxic embodiment will examine variously situated bodies, land- and waterscapes and their naturalcultural intra-actions with toxicity.

Toxic bodies are certainly an urgent environmental concern: plastics seeping hormones into bodies, industries leaking toxic waste into rivers, weather carrying traces of contaminants to breast milk in Arctic climes—it seems the transcorporeal transits of toxicity spare no one and no place. Yet alarmist views of toxicity are themselves cause for concern: what normative views of bodies get (re)produced in these narratives? What would a pure and clean body be? How are subjects and policies forged in toxicity as “boundary objects?” (Star & Griesemer 1989; King 2001).

The idea that toxicity (and toxic human or more-than-human bodies) must be expunged from our lives (detoxed) in order to return to some pristine or pure state, points to a whole underbelly of questions: How are we, with our consumerist lifestyles and “normative intoxications,” complicit in these toxicities in the first place? And “how is it that so much of this toxic world… is encountered by so many of us as benign and pleasurable?” How might the intimacies of toxicity instead invite “queer loves?” (Chen 2012: 207-211)

Moreover, with the hormone pollutants as a rising threat, important questions about transgender and the sexual politics of environmental movements issue an urgent challenge to gender and science studies, as well as environmental and animal studies. Taking up this challenge, this special issue attends, for example, to the ways hormone disruptors disturb multiple boundaries of sexes, generations, races, geographies, nation states, and species (Roberts 2007, Hayward 2012, Ah-King & Hayward 2014) and how toxicity has re-dynamized corporeality and the biochemical materiality of bodies.

Exploring the theme of toxic embodiment demands that we think precisely about the meaning of toxicity. This necessarily entails some difficult interdisciplinary or even postdisciplinary conversations, including those at the intersection of science and science studies, cultural research into patienthood and body studies, human animal studies, and queer feminist theory. Toxic embodiment also begs new understandings of environmental sicknesses and even the notion of the Anthropocene and how to do humanities research at large in such a frame (Alaimo 2010).

We wish to invite contributions working in the fields of medical humanities, life sciences, feminist posthumanities, science, technology and society, gender studies, queer and trans studies, indigenous studies, disability studies, environmental humanities, and other related fields of study and forms of critical inquiry.


Possible areas of interest:

  • Environmental sickness and health in the Anthropocene.
  • Plastic embodiment, human and nonhuman vulnerability.
  • Images and concepts, discourses and stories of toxic embodiment as inflected by medicine, biochemistry, the life sciences, public health campaigns, and/or pharmaceutical culture.
  • Hormone disruptors and the sexual politics of environmental movements.
  • Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and personhood, patienthood, and embodied subjectivity in relational perspective with the different disorders of longevity and affluence, poverty and mortality.
  • Animals and toxicity.
  • Justice and environmental health in queer/feminist/postcolonial/decolonial, historical or future perspectives.
  • Bodies in transit, human and nonhuman bodies in transgender or migration perspectives on hormones, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and technologies of welfare and surveillance.
  • Breathing, eating, sleeping, co-existing, and love making in the Anthropocene.
  • Agency, ethics, and politics of toxic embodiment and its postdisciplinary forays.



We seek original and unpublished contributions in a variety of formats, including articles (5,000-9,000 words in length), provocations (5,000-9,000 words in length), review essays (3000-6000 words in length), commentary pieces (1000-3000 words in length), and artistic interventions. We especially welcome submissions from indigenous and/or people of colour, and/or trans and/or non-binary people, and perspectives from post-Soviet contexts and the Global South.

Guidelines for abstracts:

Interested contributors are invited to submit an abstract of 250 words in length. The abstracts should include: title, author’s/s’ name, current affiliation and e-mail address, author’s/s’ bio (up to 100 words), and maximum five key words. Please specify the format of the paper.

The deadline for abstract submission is 15 January, 2017. All submissions should be the original work of the author/s and should not have been published or be under consideration for publication with another journal or publisher. Some exceptions may be made; please contact the editors to discuss further. Selected authors will be invited to submit full papers by 30 April, 2017.

Please send submissions and/or queries to Olga Cielemęcka at and Cecilia Åsberg at

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