Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D., MPH

Committee Member

Kiran Jayaram, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ambar Basu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anna J. Willow, Ph.D.


Anthropocene, deindustrialization, environmental justice, risk, Superfund Sites, white working class


In 1980, the United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This federal law provided the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the legal tools necessary to pursue polluters who had improperly stored or disposed hazardous wastes. Since its passage, more than a thousand sites have been added to the National Priorities List (NPL), but only a fraction have been cleaned up. Proponents of neoliberalism argue that aggressive environmental policies such as CERCLA harm workers by making it impossible for businesses to operate profitably. This coincides with a drop of nearly 50% in the U.S. manufacturing workforce since 1980, ushering in an ongoing era of deindustrialization, ultimately leading some scholars and public figures to worry about the advent of a “culture in crisis” in forming manufacturing areas of the U.S. and similar nations. In this dissertation, I draw on twelve months of fieldwork and 65 interviews to tell the story of one major property on the NPL: Fields Brook Superfund Site. Here, I use a mixed-methods approach to trace the assemblages, lived experiences, and practices that constitute a Superfund Site in a white working class community. Ultimately, I argue that experiences with chemicals give rise to new chemosocialities. One important chemosocial product of these interactions is white working class identity, forged by working in and around factories. I present the case that a more-than-human approach to studying environmental policy is necessary for anthropologists to understand how identity politics, citizenship, and lived experiences of toxicity overlap to produce new realities.