Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 35 illustrations Published: February 2018

Author: Sara Ann Wylie

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Science and Technology Studies

From flammable tap water and sick livestock to the recent onset of hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma, the impact of fracking in the United States is far-reaching and deeply felt. In Fractivism Sara Ann Wylie traces the history of fracking and the ways scientists and everyday people are coming together to hold accountable an industry that has managed to evade regulation. Beginning her story in Colorado, Wylie shows how nonprofits, landowners, and community organizers are creating novel digital platforms and databases to track unconventional oil and gas well development and document fracking's environmental and human health impacts. These platforms model alternative approaches for academic and grassroots engagement with the government and the fossil fuel industry. A call to action, Fractivism outlines a way forward for not just the fifteen million Americans who live within a mile of an unconventional oil or gas well, but for the planet as a whole.


"Wylie makes an exciting and timely scholarly contribution that is relevant well beyond the scope of those concerned with the anthropology of energy. This book is useful to social scientists to inform research and teaching on topics spanning science and technology studies, energy policy, sustainability,environmental health, digital humanities, and applied and design anthropology. The relevance of this work also extends beyond academia, and would be of great value not only to gas patch communities that are still struggling to demonstrate the links between chemical exposure and illness, but to community leaders and activists that are engaged in a growing array of citizen science initiatives."
  — Amanda Poole, Conservation and Society

"Fractivism is an incredibly well-sourced book that presents and represents a kind of historical account of the newer applications of fracking technology (fracking reservoirs isn’t actually new) and various approaches scientists and communities are using to hold exploration companies accountable for the environmental problems resulting from fracking operations. . . . Well worth reading. Highly recommended. All readers." — M. S. Field, Choice

"Written with a strong sense of conviction and urgency. . . . An important and timely book that offers essential reading for students, researchers, and activists interested in civic science and the David-and-Goliath struggle of the popular epidemiology movement to help grassroots groups document the toxic burden posed by petrochemical and fossil fuel facilities." — Anthony E. Ladd, Mobilization

"It is a credit to the book that every chapter has its share of galling information about corporate malfeasance. . . . As forests burn and famine grows, the need for Wylie’s radical science and activism is ever more necessary." — Miles Taylor, Synoptique

"Fracktivism is a meticulously researched and supported text. . . . For academics, lawmakers, and activists, Fracktivism may give either the insight, data, or motivation for a new platform in piercing the 'regimes of imperceptibility.'" — Victor Hall, Natural Resources Journal

"Fractivism truly is an interdisciplinary work, combining insights and methodologies from anthropology, sociology, science and technology studies, environmental science, and physiology. Wylie does a good job of integrating these perspectives to produce a compelling and detailed guide for collaborative environmental justice work." — Kristen M. Schorpp, Nature and Culture

"The book is a meticulously researched and detailed ethnographic analysis of pioneering efforts to create databases and mapping tools that allow communities to develop resources and counteract some of the oil and gas industry’s tactics. ... Given that the 'fracking revolution' is here to stay, the issues explored in Fractivism are likely to become even more important over time." — Ion Bogdan Vasi, Contemporary Sociology

"Part STS of fracking, part history of endocrine-disruption science, and part participatory web-design 101, Fractivism is an intellectually stimulating and exciting read. ... This is a timely addition to a growing body of work on what some have called the Fracking Revolution, but what Wylie shows to be the further entrenchment of an oil/natural gas/petrochemical industry 'old guard' (p. 255). If you’ve ever wondered why the health and environmental threats associated with fracking remain 'probable' and rarely 'de?nitive,' Fractivism offers an explanation." — Matthew Fry, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Positioning matters of science and technology at the heart of environmental justice and the study of extractive industries, Wylie contributes to important debates in anthropology, applied social sciences and STS which concern the methodological and conceptual ability of these disciplines to challenge dominant paradigms." 

— Anna Szolucha, Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

"[Wylie's] work demonstrates how critical social science research can contribute not just to the documentation of harm but also to mobilizing resistance against these harms." — Tanya Matthan, PoLAR

“Sara Ann Wylie tells both a sobering story about industry practice and government negligence and an inspiring story of how gas patch residents, artists, civil servants, NGO activists, and health, environmental, and social scientists have responded to fracking. The political implications of this impressive and important book will be far-reaching.” — Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders

“Operating at the borderlands of anthropology and science studies, Sara Ann Wylie offers a compelling account of the relations between the production of knowledge and forms of regulatory accountability. She also outlines how alternative modes of scientific practice can yield new and innovative results while giving a rich depiction of the intersection of how forms of participatory democracy enroll the online world. Tackling a hugely important topic from an original angle, Fractivism could very well make a splash.” — Michael Watts, coeditor of Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sara Ann Wylie is Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Health Sciences at Northeastern University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction. An STS Analysis of Natural Gas Development in the United States  1
1. Securing the Natural Gas Boom: Oilfield Service Companies and Hydraulic Fracturing's Regulatory Exemptions  19
2. Methods for Following Chemicals: Seeing a Disruptive System and Forming a Disruptive Science  41
3. HEIRship: TEDX and Collective Inheritance  64
4. Stimulating Debate: Fracking, HEIRship, and TEDX's Generative Database  86
5. Industrial Relations and an Introduction to STS in Practice  115
6. ExtrAct: A Case Study in Methods for STS in Practice  137
7. Landman Report Card: Developing Web Tools for Socially Contentious Issues  165
8. From LRC to WellWatch: Designing Infrastructure for Participatory and Recursive Publics  191
9. WellWatch: Reflections on Designing Digital Media for Multisited Para-ethnography of Industrial Systems  219
10. The Fossil-Fuel Connection (with coauthor Len Albright)  247
Conclusion. Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds: A Call for Industrial Embodiment  279
Notes  305
References  333
Index  383
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, Association of American Publishers 2019 PROSE Award (Anthropology, Criminology, and Sociology section)

Winner, 2018 Diana Forsythe Prize, presented by the General Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association

Winner, 2020 Rachel Carson Prize, presented by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6902-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6382-8
Publicity material