Purity is not the Point: Childbearing and the Impossibility of Boundaries

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Environmental chemical toxicity evokes both individual action and relational interconnection. On the one hand, there is the diffusion of risk and harm through time and space, which complicates assigning fault, responsibility, or regulatory jurisdiction. On the other hand, toxicity begs the question of what individuals can do to feel a sense of agency and mitigate the damage done by daily necessities of living. I call this tension a double bind and suggest that it is mirrored by childbearing, arguing that childbearing offers a particularly compelling site for thinking through the possibilities and limits of consumer politics as a response to chemical toxicity. Childbearing and toxicity both disturb conventional ideas about individual actors in such a way that it makes the necessity of collective political action apparent even to those most invested in consumer politics. By building on new materialist philosophy and reproductive justice critiques of consumer choice, I consider both social and ontological problems with a politics based on individual agents. Ultimately, I argue that despite their flaws, consumer choices can be important acts of care alongside collective political action, and that childbearing can be a catalyst for ecological approaches to politics in which relations of responsibility and care are foregrounded.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCatalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2020


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