Sarah Eleazar Sadiq

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas, Austin, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10242

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Sadiq, Sarah Eleazar (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Ecological Disasters, Toxic Humanitarianism: An ethnographic exploration of contaminated zones in peri-urban Lahore, Pakistan"

Around 20 years ago, residents of Kalalanwala and Kot Asadullah, near Lahore, Punjab, first started reporting spine and bone deformities among children. This was one of many problems they had identified starting in around 1996 when several plastics, chemical, pharmaceutical, assembly and wires manufacturing plants opened in the vicinity. In 1998, the residents took up the issue with politicians and went public against the factories which, they claimed, were dumping effluents directly into the aquifer. The high levels of toxic contaminants in groundwater meant that agriculture was no longer viable, and residents had to look for jobs in the same factories they believed were responsible for their predicament. Yet instead of focusing on the production and cessation of toxic waste, the media and politicians highlighted the immediacy of unavailability of drinking water and introduced filtration technologies. This has increasingly shaped the ways ecological disasters and toxic contamination are treated in development and humanitarian imaginaries. Within this context, my research focuses on rural life where the question of obtaining and sharing water is especially marked by discrimination against lower caste groups considered ‘ritually’ impure. It asks: How does toxic contamination of the water aquifer map onto the social landscape?