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Toxic Alchemy: Race and Waste in Industrial Capitalism (in progress)

In the segregated company town of Badin, North Carolina, former aluminum workers and their families are engaged in a protracted struggle regarding contamination with Alcoa, Inc. (formerly the Aluminum Company of America), a multinational giant whose development tracks alongside and reflects U.S. imperial history. In the Black enclave of West Badin, residents struggle to reconcile the loyalty, pride and purpose they gained from contributing to industrial production, with a growing sense of their disposability to the company, the town, and the nation-state. Toxic Alchemy reframes the significance of Black geographies such as Badin, places whose destruction appears incidental, yet is constitutive of modernity. Black life and death have infused aluminum, endowing inorganic substance with vitality and value, and in turn, aluminum production has embedded industrial detritus into Black bodies and ecologies, reproducing corporeal and spatial disposability. Stylistically, Toxic Alchemy models an anticolonial geopoetics, interweaving political theory and philosophy with dramatized ethnographic vignettes, elements of speculative thought, documentary poetry, and popular science writing, testifying to the fragmentation of life under colonial-racial capitalism.

Journal articles

2023. Elizabeth McClure, Whitney Robinson, Pavithra Vasudevan, Mark Cullen, Stephen Marshall, Elizabeth North, David Richardson. “Disparities in Job Characteristics by Race and Sex in a Southern Aluminum Smelting Facility.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 1-13. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.23464

2022. Pavithra Vasudevan, Margaret Marietta Ramírez, Michelle Daigle and Yolanda González Mendoza. “Storytelling Earth and Body.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 1-16. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2022.2139658

2021. Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza, Mabel Gergan, Malini Ranganathan, and Pavithra Vasudevan, eds. (Equal authorship). “Introduction to the Special Issue: Rethinking Difference in India through Racialization.”  Ethnic and Racial Studies 45 (2): 193-215. 

2021. Pavithra Vasudevan. “An Intimate Inventory of Race and Waste.” Antipode 53 (3): 770-790.

2021. Ryan E. Emanuel, Martina A. Caretta, Louie Rivers, III, and Pavithra Vasudevan. “Structural Inequities and Social Implications of Mid-stream Oil and Gas Infrastructure.” GeoHealth. DOI: 10.1029/2021GH000442.

2021. FLOCK (Collective authorship). “Student-led Activism for Racial Justice: Ruptures I, Pedagogy and Transformation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” ACME. Special issue: “Controversy in Anti-Oppression Pedagogies: Feminist Geographic Perspectives,” Nicole Laliberte and Alison Bain, eds. (Accepted with minor revisions).

2020. Elizabeth S. McClure, Pavithra Vasudevan, Nathan DeBono, Whitney R. Robinson, Stephen Marshall and David Richardson. “Cancer and Non-Cancer Mortality Among Aluminum Smelting Workers in Badin, North Carolina.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.23150.

2020. Pavithra Vasudevan and Sara Smith (First author). “The Domestic Geopolitics of Racial Capitalism. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. DOI: 10.1177/2399654420901567.

2020. Mabel Gergan, Sara Smith and Pavithra Vasudevan (Equal authorship). Earth Beyond Repair: Race and Apocalypse in Collective Imagination.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space: 0263775818756079.

2019. Pavithra Vasudevan. “An Intimate Inventory of Race and Waste.” Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography. DOI: 10.1111/anti.12501.

2017. Sara Smith and Pavithra Vasudevan, eds (Equal authorship). “Race, Biopolitics and the Future: Introduction to the Special Section.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35 (2): 210-221.

2017. Pavithra Vasudevan and William A. Kearney (First author). “Remembering Kearneytown: Race, Place and Collective Memory in Collaborative Filmmaking.” Area 48 (4): 455-462. 2015.

2014. Siobhan Senier, Anthony Lioi, Mary Kate Ryan, Pavithra Vasudevan, Angel Nieves, Darren Ranco and Courtney Marshall. “The Resilience of Race: A Cultural Sustainability Manifesto.” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 1 (2).

2012. Pavithra Vasudevan. “Performance and Proximity: Revisiting Environmental Justice in Warren County, North Carolina,” Performance Research 17 (4): 18-26.

Book chapters

2020 Kriti Sharma and Pavithra Vasudevan (Equal authorship). “E is for Erasure: On the (Incomplete) Obliteration of Sacred Matters.” In An A to Z of Shadow Places Concepts. Donna Houston, Fiona Miller, Emily Potter, and Eva Lövbrand, eds.

2020. Pavithra Vasudevan. “Brown Scholar, Black Studies: On Suffering, Witness & Materialist Relationality.” Feminist Geography Unbound: Intimacy, Territory, and Embodied Power. West Virginia University Press. Banu Gökarıksel, Michael Hawkins, Christopher Neubert, & Sara Smith, eds.

2020. Chris Neubert, Sara Smith and Pavithra Vasudevan(Equal authorship). “The Intimate Geopolitics of Race and Gender in the United States.” Routledge International Handbook of Gender and Feminist Geographies, Anindita Datta, Peter Hopkins, Lynda Johnston, Elizabeth Olson, and Joseli Maria Silva, eds.

2018. Donna Houston and Pavithra Vasudevan. “Storytelling Environmental Justice: Cultural Studies Approaches.” In Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice. Ryan Holifield, Jayajit Chakraborty, and Gordon Walker, eds.: 241-251.

Guest Editorial

2020. Elizabeth S. McClure, Pavithra Vasudevan, Zinzi Bailey, Snehal Patel and Whitney R. Robinson. “Racial Capitalism within Public Health: How Occupational Settings Drive COVID-19 Disparities.” American Journal of Epidemiology 189 (11): 1244-1253. 

2019. Sara Smith, Pavithra Vasudevan, Carlos Serrano and Banu Gökarıksel. “Breaking Families: Whiteness, State Violence, and the Alienable Rights of Kin.” Political Geography. DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.01.001

Edited special issues

2020. Sharma, Kriti and Pavithra Vasudevan. Erasure.” An A to Z of Shadow Places Concepts.

2017. Sara Smith and Pavithra Vasudevan, eds (Equal authorship). “Race, Biopolitics and the Future: Introduction to the Special Section.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35 (2): 210-221.

Public Scholarship

(Accepted by Editor) Pavithra Vasudevan. “Conscience of the Nation: the Leadership of Dollie Burwell and Naeema Muhammad.” Practical Visionaries: Women of Color and Indigenous Women in the North American Environmental Movement, Anuja Mendiratta and Beth Rose Middleton, eds.

2016. Atiya Husain, Pavithra Vasudevan and Neel Ahuja. “Islamophobia & Anti-Blackness: A Call to Action at UNC.” Monsoon: A Platform for South Asian Affairs, 3: 6.Available:

2013. Pavithra Vasudevan. “Linking Struggles to Build the Movement – Report-back from the NCEJN Summit.” Blog post. Available:

2008. Women’s Environment and Development Organization. “Gender, Climate Change and Human Security: Lessons from Bangladesh, Ghana, and Senegal” (Unpublished working paper), Contributor. Available: