IBM, Pollution, and Industrial Risks
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Figures and Tables
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On June 16, 2011, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) celebrated its one-hundredth birthday and commemorated this event with a year-long series of seminars and conferences around the world. The centennial celebration was an opportunity for IBM to reach out to many of its constituents in industry, government, and academia...
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List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
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1. Down in Big Blue’s Toxic Plume in Upstate New York
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In September 2008, I was doing fieldwork in Endicott, New York, the site of both IBM’s first manufacturing plant and a contentious U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund1 site consisting of a 300-acre toxic plume of trichloroethylene (or TCE), which is a cancer-causing chlorine-based cleaning solvent heavily used by IBM to manufacture...
2. The New Mitigation Landscape
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If one looks closely enough, Endicott, New York, best known as the “birthplace of IBM,” is today a landscape of toxics mitigation technology. It has become a Computer Age ruin and a place of pollution repair. Venting systems with white plastic tubing running from basements to roofs are visible on nearly 500 houses and businesses in Endicott’s downtown...
3. From Shoes to Computers to Vapor Mitigation Systems
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Making sure I understood things properly, that I understood the significance of Endicott’s industrial history, I was told by one “plume resident” during an interview: “You know, Peter, Endicott is where IBM started? It all started right here.” I was reminded of this fact on several occasions, and no matter how many times I heard it, I still found it...
4. Living the Tangle of Risk, Deindustrialization, and Community Transformation
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Endicott’s IBM spill archive, located at the public repository in the George F. Johnson Memorial Library in downtown Endicott, contains four large shelves packed with fact sheets and technical reports, many of which are developed by private companies contracted by IBM and the NYSDEC to carry out the plethora of environmental and public...
5. Post-Mitigation Skepticism and Frustration
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While the majority of my fieldwork took place in Endicott, there was a “multisited” ethnographic component to the research (Marcus 1995). In early October 2008, I attended a two-day classroom training entitled “Vapor Intrusion Pathway: A Practical Guide” in Portland, Oregon, that was organized by the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council...
6. Grassroots Action and Conflicted Environmental Justice
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The IBM closure in 2002 and the increased public disclosure of IBM’s toxic legacy, especially TCE and the threat of vapor intrusion, led to the emergence of several local advocacy groups. This grassroots advocacy developed in the same way that other environmental health and anti-toxics movements (ATMs) have emerged: knowledge of toxic...
7. Citizens, Experts, and Emerging Vapor Intrusion Science and Policy
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As an anthropologist and political ecologist engaged in vapor intrusion (VI) debates, I am interested in how the lay public and scientists and regulators come to know and understand these emerging debates. VI is one of many emerging sciences and technologies in which anthropology can intervene (Downey and Dumit 1997). It is a risk debate largely...
8. Accounting for the Paradox of IBM’s “Smarter Planet”
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Ultimately ethnographic fieldwork “is an educational experience all around. What is difficult is to decide what has been learned” (Geertz 2000 :37). It is easy to say that I have learned many things from spending time talking to residents of Endicott’s IBM plume. Deciding what to write about, what to cultivate, what to expose and attend to was...
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About the Author
Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2014