Toxic Tourism

ToxicTourfrontcoverToxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Travel, Pollution, and Environmental Justice (University of Alabama Press, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-0-8173-1550-4. Toxic Tourism is the first book length study of “toxic tours” as a mode of advocacy for environmental justice in North America. In order to challenge life-threatening policy decisions, such tours illuminate the linkages between pollution and environmental injustices. In depth examples are provided to engage racism and classism in southern Louisiana (pre- and post-Katrina), pinkwashing of breast cancer in the Bay Area, and transnational trade treaties between the US and Mexico.

Praise for Toxic Tourism…
“Pezzullo’s topic and approach are as fresh as her subject matter is fetid…. This is excellent work because it points to the possibility of a more active and engaged type of tourism as opposed to a passive and alienated one.”
— Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class

“A very stimulating read. I find myself wanting to bring Toxic Tourism up in conversations.”
— Tarla Rai Peterson, author of Sharing the Earth: The Rhetoric of Sustainable Development

“Pezzullo’s book is thoughtfully developed, gracefully presented, with sprinkles of humor and pathos along the way. This book will be read for years to come by those interested in environmental justice and other indigenous social movements. In addition, this book serves as a model for how to conduct and present participant-observation research.”
— Stephen P. Depoe, Excerpt from review in Quarterly Journal of Speech

“Toxic Tourism adds to the growing body of literature in the relatively new field of environmental communication. It lays a useful theoretical foundation for understanding rhetorical tactics …. Pezzullo offers a politically engaged book reflecting her academic and activist background.”
— Barbara E. Willard, Excerpt from review in Rhetoric Society Quarterly

“Pezzullo’s own background in communication studies is apparent as she deftly analyzes the various speeches she hears and conversations she has with residents besieged by pollution.”
— Barbara L. Allen, Excerpt from review in Organization & Environment

“In Toxic Tourism, Phaedra Pezzullo shows us how touring moves beyond the simple notions of leisure travel, and should be considered a discursive production and performative act that opens the conversation for democratic engagement.”
— Kristin Mroczek, Excerpt from review in Tourist Studies

“From start to finish, Toxic Tourism is top-rate scholarship…accessible and engaging…. [T]here is something for everybody: a nuanced engagement with popular culture, a cogent encounter with and across multiple literatures, and a text that draws in its readers and invites them on its own tour.”
— Matthew P. Brigham, Excerpt from review in Rhetoric & Public Affairs

“Like the tours about which she writes, Pezzullo invites not only critical reflection but also political action. She deftly demonstrates how innovative cultural practices of resistance are changing the face of the environmental justice movement and environmental politics, and, in doing so, are opening new sites for public engagement, participation and transformation.”
— Gwendolyn Blue, Excerpt from review in Cultural Studies

“This volume pushes the literature on tourism into new directions, with progressive ends. Noting that the largest industry in the world, tourism, is itself often invasive, destructive, corrosive, and offensive, Pezzullo (communications, Indiana Univ.) demonstrates how noncommercial tours can serve as a rhetoric of resistance to mobilize public sentiment against toxic patterns and practices. That is, ‘By weaving together social critiques of tourism and the responses of communities to the burdens of literal chemical toxicity, this book aims to bring into focus and hold accountable deeply embedded and highly problematic assumptions about travel, pollution, and democracy.’ In particular, such experiential explorations of polluted areas serve to challenge the binary assumptions of society and environment and focus on racial, economic, and gendered cultural politics; that is, to shift the usual tourist gaze on the picturesque and nostalgic to that which is disgusting and grotesque as part of a revolutionary mission. After two introductory chapters that define terms, Pezzullo follows three case-study chapters with a conclusion and epilogue. The volume is well illustrated, referenced, and footnoted. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners.”
–CHOICE Review by B. Osborne. From: Syndetics Solutions, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

“An effective tool for raising public awareness of egregious cases of pollution, so-called toxic tours highlight as well the disparate impact pollution has on low-income populations. In this well-researched study, Pezzullo (communication and culture, Indiana U.) describes the people, businesses, politics, environment, and histories of several toxic tours, while maintaining a focus on rhetoric and its use by those in power. Highlighting stubborn and prevalent attitudes and mores in American commerce and society, this study engages with questions of ethics and class as they are played out in the use of the environment.”
— Book News Annotation. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Awards granted to Toxic Tourism:
* Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award, Urban Communication Foundation, 2010
* James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric/Public Address, National Communication Association (NCA), 2007
* Christine L. Oravec Research Award in Environmental Communication, NCA, 2007
* Book of the Year Award for the Critical and Cultural Studies Division, NCA, 2007

Purchasing information available at Powell’s Books or or Barnes & Noble

Table of Contents for Toxic Tourism

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: A Challenge 1
Chapter One: Tourist Itineraries 24
Chapter Two: Toxic Baggage 52
Chapter Three: Sites and Sacralization 77
Chapter Four: Cancer and Cooptation 106
Chapter Five: Identification and Imagined Communities 138
Conclusion: All the Time in the World 172
Epilogue: And the Struggles Continue… 188
Appendix: Contact information for Advocacy Groups 193
Notes 195
Bibliography 231
Index 251