Category: Environmental Justice

The Multiple Displacements of Mangalore Special Economic Zone

This paper analyses three different types of displacement – social, cultural and economic – in the lives of three women and their families which have been affected by the creation of the Mangalore special economic zone. Conceptualising the displacements in rhythmic terms, it first details the subversion of progressive land reforms and the reassertion of caste-based oppression, followed by the clash between the dharma of the spirits of the land and the neo-liberal dharma of capitalistic development. Finally, it looks at life in a resettlement colony where families that have been uprooted from the agricultural production cycle are closed off from the urban life they are expected to adopt.

I wrote it together with the wonderful Vidya Dinker and Ramachandra Bhatta for Economic and Political Weekly

You can download it here: Cook et al_2013_The Multiple Displacements of Mangalore Special Economic Zone

And from here


A farmer points to his once arable land taken by a special economic zone

Red Sludge on the Blue Danube

In Almásfüzitő, a small factory settlement on the banks of the Danube, hazardous waste is being used to create a topsoil to cover solidified red sludge – residue from a long-closed alumina factory. Stored in large waste reservoirs, the largest of which is just a few hundred metres from locals’ homes, this residue from bauxite processing is separated from the Danube only by a permeable mud wall.

However, neither the state nor locals are up in arms. The company that manages the site, Tatai Environmental Protection Ltd. (TKV), has a valid permit and, for the most part, locals are annoyed at the attention the red mud reservoir attracts from environmentalists and media alike. Maybe, then, the standard way outsiders have looked at Almásfüzitő is wrong. What would it mean to see the settlement in a more positive light?

How about this?

Nestled on the banks of the Danube surrounded by lush vegetation, Almásfüzitő is home to state-of-the-art sports facilities, a kindergarten and primary school that are the envy of the region, a freshly renovated replica Roman camp, and a boat club. It has pretty much full employment, connections by road and train to nearby cities and Budapest, it boasts a well-maintained central square and now has a conscientious mayor who is developing the local infrastructure and has ambitious plans for the future.

Unlike many other post-industrial settlements that have failed to find their place in the last decades, Almásfüzitő is doing fine. Why then, should the settlement be defined by red mud and toxic waste?


To read more of this co-authored article with investigative journalist Gabi Horn, read here


Red Mud, a Divided Settlement and the Toxic Waste Poisoning Hungary

Environmentalists, and the EU, have long voiced concern over a toxic waste site on the banks of the Danube in northern Hungary. So why do most locals living nearby quietly tolerate it?

Together with investigative journalist Gabi Horn, I wrote an article trying to answer this question. Available here.


Urban Arena – a podcast about sustainable and just cities

Cities can play a crucial role in creating just and sustainable futures. Urban Arena is a series of critical conversations with activists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals and policy-makers in different European cities who are working, in complimentary and conflicting ways, to create cities that respond to the twin challenges of justice and sustainability. This podcast is part of three year project: UrbanA  – urban arenas for sustainable and just cities. It was made by me (Ian M. Cook) and the indefatigable Kate McGinn.

You can find the podcasts here and here and in the usual places like apple and spotify (see below).


The Life and Times of Red Mud Reservoir № VII

‘The Life and Times of Red Mud Reservoir № VII’ is a collaboration between an anthropologist (me, Ian M. Cook) and a graphic artist/illustrator (Gyula Németh) about a bauxite tailings storage facility in the settlement of Almásfüzitő, Hungary. The non-public figures who appear in the following pages are composite characters based on interviews in the settlement. They are not intended to represent real people. The story is narrated by the reservoir itself and covers the historical, political, theoretical, cultural and social aspects of Red Mud Reservoir № VII and those who live in its vicinity.

It was published here in English and here in Hungarian. You can get the full screen versions here  and here.


Environmental Injustices in Central and Eastern Europe

Covering complex topics such as environmental injustice calls for novel reporting approaches. If a topic needs the skills of social scientists, environmental experts and investigative journalists, why not gather those skills in a team? The results might transgress the boundaries of traditional journalism or academia, but they do justice to issues that are otherwise inadequately covered.

With this in mind, working together with Dumitrita Holdis, I c0-organised the ‘Black Waters’ project that brought together two teams of social scientists, journalists, and environmental experts from the Center for Media Data and Society at the Central European University, Balkan Insight and Átlátszó. This transnational, multidisciplinary collaborative project sought to experiment in developing new reporting methodologies while investigating two cases of environmental injustice: sturgeon poaching in the Romanian Danube Delta and toxic waste mismanagement in Almásfüzitő, Hungary.

The results of which are collected here and here and here (and below).

They include:


Your Praises, My Love

A film about scrap metal, one of Georgia’s biggest exports. The film is a re-edit of footage shot for the film Harvest Georgia, part of the Black Shorts project (

Building Castles in the Air

Building Castles in the Air, a photo essay on advertising boards for new housing, has just been published in the open access anthropology journal The Unfamiliar. It’s more interesting than I make it sound here (I hope).

You Call it Home
You can access the article here!