Ava Tomasula y Garcia

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 10635

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Tomasula y Garcia, Ava (Columbia U.) "Late industrial illness and healing and the practice of American medical unorthodoxy"

Enduring legacies of toxic pollution and degraded infrastructures mark late industrial sites throughout the United States. The Calumet Region of South Chicago and Northwest Indiana was once home to the largest steel mills in the world, and is today still heavily industrialized despite its inclusion in the “rust belt.” As such, this is a landscape suffused with particular labor histories, etiologies like cancer which are linked to industrial pollution, and modes of arguing for redress from workplace harm. In contrast to these historically legible ills, my research considers underarticulated sickness experienced in the Region today: brain fog, nausea, headache, and more amorphous feelings of not being well. This project asks how those living in the Calumet negotiate historically established arguments around certainty, causation, and illness in a much more uncertain contemporary context. Building on anthropological imaginaries of industrial projects and their aftermaths, the epistemological space shared by biomedicine and “alternative” modes of healing, and materialist conceptualizations that theorize persons and geophysical landscapes together, this project examines how the problem-space of undiagnosed illness and the unorthodox healing modalities individuals use to remedy them reveal political dispositions and embodied knowledge in the late industrial present.