Edges of Exposure: Toxicology and the Problem of Capacity in Postcolonial Senegal

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May 20, 2018

Critical Commentary

AO: In this 2018 book by Noemi Tousignant, she looks at ecotoxicological research capacity in Senegal. She argues that what we know about levels of contamination and indicators of exposure in Senegal owes much to improvisations of capacity that are sometimes productive, but often also modest and fragile since other than paying the salaries of Senegalese toxicologists, it gives little else towards research, leaving the toxicologists to ask their own questions and mobilized “their own” resources, such as leftover capacity from earlier projects, contacts with foreign scientists, and gifts of free testing or access to lab facilities.

Abstract: "In the industrialized nations of the global North, well-funded agencies like the CDC attend to citizens' health, monitoring and treating for toxic poisons like lead. How do the under-resourced nations of the global South meet such challenges? In Edges of Exposure, Noémi Tousignant traces the work of toxicologists in Senegal as they have sought to warn of and remediate the presence of heavy metals and other poisons in their communities. Situating recent toxic scandals within histories of science and regulation in postcolonial Africa, Tousignant shows how decolonization and structural adjustment have impacted toxicity and toxicology research. Ultimately, as Tousignant reveals, scientists' capacity to conduct research—as determined by material working conditions, levels of public investment, and their creative but not always successful efforts to make visible the harm of toxic poisons—affects their ability to keep equipment, labs, projects, and careers going."

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English