How much is a body with minerals worth? Through the lens of lead-exposure politics, this article analyzes how people living near the mineral-storage yards of Peru's seaport of El Callao enact a response to this question. El Callao's port serves as a transport and storage hub for metal particulates awaiting foreign markets. The infrastructure required for this undertaking—trucks, roads, and repositories—also generate conditions of metal leakage and human exposure. Over the decades, low-income port residents have effectively acted as human infrastructures of toxic storage, a service for which they are selectively paid through ad hoc indemnification practices by multinational metal-trading corporations. While arguing that such infrastructural incorporations materialize the racialized ethics of Peru's extractive economy, the article also shows how denouncing lead exposure has generated new political means for port residents to access previously unavailable infrastructure (water, electricity, building materials) for their formalizing or informal settlements as well as other basic necessities of life. Decades after the “discovery” of lead at the port, these isolated gift exchanges and infrastructural improvements provide corporations a palliative approach to lead remediation and indemnification, producing a state of ongoing ethical deferral of complete lead eradication, which keeps minerals moving swiftly through the port and inside the bodies of residents. [infrastructure, ports, toxicity, ethics, corporate social responsibility, racial extractive capitalism, Peru].
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)