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The art of unnoticing: Risk perception and contrived ignorance in China

Lou, Loretta Ieng Tak

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In China many petrochemical plants are adjacent to residential areas. Despite this, the people who live in these areas appear indifferent to the threat of toxic pollution and chemical explosions, even though they are aware of the danger. Building on historical and social studies of ignorance, I show how residents in a southern Chinese city live with the threat of petrochemicals by practicing what I call the “art of unnoticing,” a contrived form of ignorance that enables them to live with the reality of pollution and reclaim their agency in face of the unavoidable. In light of this, I reflect on the limit and complexity of the global environmental justice when willful ignorance is at work. The next step forward is to understand what it is that people are unnoticing, as well as what unnoticing can do to people's lifeworlds.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 17, 2022
Publication Date 2022-11
Deposit Date Sep 17, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2023
Journal American Ethnologist
Print ISSN 0094-0496
Electronic ISSN 1548-1425
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 4
Pages 580-594
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© 2022 The Authors. American Ethnologist published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Anthropological Association

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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