Smoke and Mirrors

The Politics and Culture of Air Pollution

360 pages

2 illustrations

July, 2004

ISBN: 9780814719619



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E. Melanie DuPuis is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink

All books by E. Melanie Dupuis

Who gets to breathe clean air? Who benefits from the cheaper products produced with dirty air? The answers, as the contributors to Smoke and Mirrors tell us, are sometimes as gray as the air itself.

From the coal factory chimneys in Manchester in the late nineteenth century to the smog hanging over Los Angeles in the late twentieth century, air pollution has long been one of the greatest threats to our environment. In this important collection of original essays, the leading environmental scientists and social scientists examine the politics of air pollution policies and help us to understand the ways these policies have led to, idiosyncratic, effective, ineffective, and even disastrous choices about what we choose to put into and take out of the air. Offering historical, contemporary and cross-national perspectives, this volume provides a refreshing new approach to understanding how air pollution policies have evolved over time.


  • "[A] fascinating, provocative, pathbreaking book. . . . Air pollution can no longer be understood simply as an issue of economics, science, and engineering, but one that implicates fundamental values and controversies surrounding justice, fairness, and the construction of knowledge."

    —Gary Bryner, author of From Promises to Performance: Achieving Global Environmental Goals

  • "Essential reading for social environmental historians, environmental scientists, cultural and social historians, and public policy specialists.”

    —Bill Luckin, author of Pollution and Control

  • "The well-told stories in its diverse chapters provide lessons for today as we continue to struggle to curb urban air pollution and its health effects."

    —Jonathan Samet, coeditor of Indoor Air Pollution: A Health Perspective

  • "This collection of richly detailed and pioneering essays will be welcomed as a major contribution . . . providing a broad-ranging and multifaceted overview of the history of society's reaction to and struggle to protect itself from air-borne industrial toxins.”

    —Christine Rosen, author of The Limits of Power

  • "Arguing the importance of the social dimensions of air pollution issues, this collection of 15 original essays addresses a wide range of topics ranging from the perception of the pollution in Victorian England to automotive pollution control in prewar Germany to pesticide drift in modern California. Several essays are provocative. well written, and richly detailed; others are vignettes."


  • "This excellent collection offers a complex and nuanced introduction to a field that intersects with many others, including studies of social stratification and social movements."

    —Graig Willse, City University of New York