Flowing toxics: E-waste field work in the Palestinian-Israeli space

Yaakov Garb, Nelly Leblond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We draw on several emerging literatures on contamination and waste and our own fieldwork on e-waste contamination in a Palestinian-Israeli border space to describe a “flowing” approach to toxic phenomena. We use this term as a shorthand to underscore the particular complexities of the socio-material-biological node called “toxics,” and the corresponding epistemic, methodological, and moral demands of studying them. Some episodes from typical days of field work assessing the dispersal of heavy metals from sites of e-waste burning illustrate our claims. Even this attempt to use straightforward techniques to measure the presence of an object of apparent elemental materiality was continually permeated and unsettled by the inescapable flowiness of toxics. Their sources, generation processes and fates were mobile and multiscalar, remarkably patchy heterogeneous and contingent in ways that mattered. At issue was not (just) inadequate knowledge, but the inescapably relational biophysical and social nature of toxics; their entanglement not only with the technical means, processes and definitions that make them perceptible, but with the multiple and often disjunct social contexts that allow, inform, and motivate attention and access to toxics sites, and the production of knowledge from them.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)45-63
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Additional keywords: Lead (Pb)
  • Pollution
  • anthropogenic soils
  • discard studies
  • electronic waste
  • environmental justice
  • portable XRF
  • slow violence

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Public Administration


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