The Unpure Imagination series engages with and challenges notions of toxicity, purity, pollution, and restoration in an always compromised world.

At the foundations of modern environmentalism is the premise that nature must be protected from contamination. “Purity” is invoked as a paramount value for land, water, air, and bodies. Yet the impossibility of returning to some untouched Eden of the Western imagination is increasingly apparent. Nature was never pure and never will be.

Nevertheless, it is vital to acknowledge the ongoing, uneven realities of how toxicants and trash impair the flourishing of human and more-than-human life. Environmental illnesses, caused by often invisible substances that have become ubiquitous in an industrial world, are increasingly common, with poor and otherwise marginalized communities often the most prone to harm. The ways that scientific and governmental institutions conceive of and respond to environmental contamination has profound implications for which futures are made possible and which are foreclosed.

In this context, we ask: how do discourses around (im)purity affect environmental thought and action? How do we live well in an environment marred by pollutants? What constitutes environmental justice in a compromised world?

Series editors: Ben Iuliano, Kuhelika Ghosh, Richelle Wilson

Featured image: Swirls of an oil slick in a parking lot. Photo by Arbyreed, 2011.