UCL Anthropocene


Michelle Murphy: Chemical Exposures and Place-Thought

09 June 2022, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm

chemical exposures water pollution

Part of the Chemical Exposures workshop, a joint partnership between UCL Anthropocene and SHS Health, Mind and Society

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







UCL Anthropocene


Archaeology 612
UCL Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square

This is a hybrid event, taking place in person and online (Zoom). Sign up for both can be done via the booking link.

What are Chemical Exposures? What epistemic habits and units of analysis reinscribe the violence relations that ongoingly permit chemical exposures. Is a chemical pollutant a molecule, or something else? This talk considers the ways chemical pollution extends out into land disruption, ongoing colonialism, and financialization, distributing mortality to beings and their relationships while also reproducing entitlements. Through Indigenous feminist approaches starting with what Haudenosaunee/Anishinaabe scholar Vanessa Watt’s calls place-thought, this talk considers ways to rethinking chemical exposures in the specificity of Chemical Valley on the lower Great Lakes, reaching for ways to activate responsibilities to Indigenous jurisdiction, intergenerational being, and desire-based land-body relations.

Michelle Murphy is a Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto, where they hold a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Science & Technology Studies and Environmental Data Justice at the University of Toronto. Their research is concerned with feminist and decolonial approaches to environmental justice, reproduction, Indigenous science and technology studies, infrastructures and data studies; as well as finance and economic practices. They are Co-Director of the Technoscience Research Unit, which hosts an Indigenous lab and is home for social justice and decolonial approaches to STS. They are also the author of The Economization of Life (2017), Seizing the Means of Reproduction (2012), and Sick Building Syndrome and the Politics of Uncertainty (2006), all with Duke University Press. Murphy's current research focuses on the relationships between pollution, colonialism, and technoscience on the lower Great Lakes. They are Métis from Winnipeg, with a French Canadian and Métis family background.

Chemical Exposures

The chemical composition of environments and bodies have been transformed in the recent past, reflecting changes in agricultural production and the expansion of the extractive, petrochemical and nuclear industries. However, while there is now widespread public recognition of the pervasiveness of exposure to toxic chemicals, in the air, soil, and water, the study of chemical exposure remains relatively marginal to the social sciences. This workshop brings together diverse research communities to build on a developing interdisciplinary field of research and reflect upon the impact and implications of the chemical transformation of the planet for health, well-being, justice, and livelihoods.

The workshop builds on the ongoing work of the Chemical Exposures group of UCL Anthropocene, which is drawn from across the Departments of Anthropology, Geography, Science and Technology Studies, and Public Health at UCL.