Kathryn Louise Gougelet

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Cruz, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10419

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Gougelet, Kathryn (California, Santa Cruz, U. of) "When “Slow Violence” Accelerates: Viral Infections, Comorbidity, and Ongoing Landscape Rupture near a Catalan Petrochemical Hub"

In the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain, where olive orchards sit next to sprawling petrochemical facilities, pollution is becoming more pathogenic. Epidemiologists suggest that living with pollution can increase susceptibility to acute respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. This means that the ‘slow violence’ of environmental harm can accelerate into acute violence in very specific conditions: when a virus meets ‘exposed’ populations, who themselves have been otherwise marginalized and forced to live with high levels of pollution. My proposed research in Tarragona, a place hard hit by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, advances anthropological engagements with toxicity and environmental justice by theorizing the virus as not just an additional risk layer, but a catalyst that accelerates the ‘slow violence’ of pollution-related chronic illness, and a force that is animating new modes of living with toxicity. I ask: what new modes of living with uneven toxicity in the Tarragona region have emerged in the pandemic’s wake? By foregrounding how people manage toxic worlds made newly volatile by a virus, I study the connections between two ‘pre-existing conditions’ in this region: comorbidity and dictatorship-driven landscape rupture. Through this work, I develop a situated portrait of the emerging links between human and environmental health in the Anthropocene.