The Smell of RiskEnvironmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics

The Smell of RiskEnvironmental Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics

Hsuan L. Hsu

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479807215

Publisher: NYU Press


The Smell of Risk considers the capacities of olfaction as a tool for sensing and staging modernity’s differentiated atmospheres and their associated environmental risks. Focusing on American literature and art from the 1890s to the present, the book considers how smell stages the pathways through which environmental materials enter and interact with bodies in detective fiction, naturalist novels, environmental illness memoirs, environmental justice narratives, and olfactory art. These texts reframe modernization as a regime of differential deodorization that relocates bad air and its associated noxious odors to vulnerable spaces and populations even as it derecognizes olfaction as a mode of embodied knowledge. The Smell of Risk brings insights from the fields of material ecocriticism, sensory studies, atmospheric geography, and critical race studies to bear on diverse contexts of atmospheric disparity, including Latinx communities exposed to freeway exhaust and pesticides, Asian diasporic artists’ responses to racial discourses about Asiatic odors, and writings that explore the atmospheric devastation of settler colonialism and the olfactory capacities of Indigenous plants.