This article explores psychic experiences of air pollution and the ways these experiences have become narrated in various texts, especially but not exclusively those responding to one weekend in December 2013 when Shanghai purportedly experienced the highest levels of fine-particle, or PM2.5, pollution on record. This paper is also concerned, more generally, with processes associated with attempts to transform the messiness, or figurative haze, of fieldwork into an authoritative written account. These dual concerns—with air pollution and writing—are mutually informing since both seem to translate troubling, and often socially unacceptable, emotions into more presentable and tolerable forms. Through narrativization, namely acts of authorship and inscription, persons implicated in this article attempt to relieve, figuratively write over, or otherwise repress anxieties. While it is understandable, and perhaps even normal, to perpetuate such processes, this article argues we should engage rather than erase them since they not only animate persons and texts but also illuminate efforts to understand human responses to air pollution.
In the Haze: On Narrativization and Air Pollution in Shanghai
Alex Cockain is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research relating to Chinese youth and education has been published in China Journal and Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Other China-related articles have appeared in China Information, Time and Society, Disability and Society, and Social Semiotics. He also has contributed chapters to The Routledge Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood (2016) and China Online: Locating Society in Online Places (2014). He is the sole author of Young Chinese in Urban China (2012).
Alex Cockain; In the Haze: On Narrativization and Air Pollution in Shanghai. positions 1 May 2020; 28 (2): 447–479. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8112503
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