In the Haze: On Narrativization and Air Pollution in Shanghai

Alexander Gray Cockain

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This article explores psychic experiences of air pollution and the ways these experiences have become narrated in various texts, especially but not exclusively those responding to one weekend in December 2013 when Shanghai purportedly experienced the highest levels of fine-particle, or PM2.5, pollution on record. This paper is also concerned, more generally, with processes associated with attempts to transform the messiness, or figurative haze, of fieldwork into an authoritative written account. These dual concerns—with air pollution and writing—are mutually informing since both seem to translate troubling, and often socially unacceptable, emotions into more presentable and tolerable forms. Through narrativization, namely acts of authorship and inscription, persons implicated in this article attempt to relieve, figuratively write over, or otherwise repress anxieties. While it is understandable, and perhaps even normal, to perpetuate such processes, this article argues we should engage rather than erase them since they not only animate persons and texts but also illuminate efforts to understand human responses to air pollution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447–479
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'In the Haze: On Narrativization and Air Pollution in Shanghai'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this