A Review of “Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape Our Lives and Landscapes”

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This article was downloaded by: [Flinders University of South Australia]On: 07 October 2014, At: 18:05Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UKThe Professional GeographerPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rtpg20A Review of Breathing Space:How Allergies Shape Our Livesand LandscapesKathi Wilson aa Department of Geography , University of TorontoMississauga , Mississauga, ON, CanadaPublished online: 14 Jan 2009.To cite this article: Kathi Wilson (2009) A Review of Breathing Space: How AllergiesShape Our Lives and Landscapes, The Professional Geographer, 61:1, 133-134, DOI:10.1080/00330120802520400To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00330120802520400PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsDownloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 18:05 07 October 2014 http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsBook Reviews 133that lessen the potentially devastating impact oftectonic faults, and (4) act as agents of changeourselves for the benefit of our dynamic Earth.KeyWords: earthquakes, fault zones, plate tecton-ics, rheology.Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape OurLives and Landscapes. Gregg Mitman.New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,2007. xv and 312 pp., maps, diagrams, pho-tos, notes, index. $30.00 cloth (ISBN 978-0-300-11035-7).Reviewed byKathiWilson, Department of Ge-ography, University of TorontoMississauga,Mississauga, ON, Canada.In this book, Gregg Mitman provides an in-depth medical history and geography of aller-gies in theUnited States.Mitmans book is verywell organized and provides a provocative andinteresting read on the links between environ-ment and health. Inspired by the authors ownpersonal struggles with asthma, Mitmans pre-sentation of a multitude of allergic landscapesreveals the existence of a political economy andecology of allergies in both historic and con-temporary times. Drawing on examples fromover the last 200 years, Mitman weaves an im-portant history that demonstrates the pivotalrole of place in understanding and preventingallergies.In Hay Fever Holiday (chap. 1), Mitmandemonstrates the therapeutic powers of placethrough his examination of the creation of hayfever resorts (e.g., White Mountains) in thenineteenth century. In the nineteenth century,hay fever was thought to be a disease of the elite(i.e., nervous exhaustion) and, thus, hay feverresorts were constructed as symbols of healthand social status. Such places, Mitman argues,reinvented nature as an economic resource forhealth among the privileged. Mitmans historicretelling of the rise in popularity of hay feverresorts clearly shows how these healing land-scapes created a social and physical distancebetween the elite and the urban poor.Chapter 2, Pollen Poison begins in theearly twentieth century at a point in time whenhay fever and asthma were no longer viewed asdiseases of the nervous system but rather as im-munological diseases. As Mitman argues, thischange in disease definition also changed thesites where healing took place. Landscapes ofhealing shifted from resorts to urban clinics inwhich botanists and physiciansworked togetherin search of universal vaccines. Mitman tells aninteresting story of the failure of researchers tocreate a universal vaccine that proved to be ef-fective across the country. In doing so, Mitmanreveals the power of place and the pitfalls offailing to recognize the regional specificity ofallergies.In chapter 3, The Last Resorts, Mitmanonce again demonstrates the healing powers ofplace through his examination of the construc-tion of Denver (late nineteenth century) andTucson (early twentieth century) as landscapesof health and healing. Mitman provides an in-depth analysis of how these cities capitalized onthe health benefits of nature andwere able to at-tract an elite class of individuals suffering fromallergies, who, in turn, helped to build thesecities into financial centers. The chapter pro-vides insight into the unintended consequencesof the mass migration of people to places likeDenver and Tucson. Population growth wasaccompanied by an increase in industry, trans-portation, and pollution, which ironically per-manently altered the ecology of these places,thereby reducing their healing properties.In Choking Cities (chap. 4), probablyone of the most interesting chapters, Mit-man tackles the impact of ecological and socialinequalities in shaping the experience of asthmaand allergies. Using examples from New Or-leans and New York, Mitman depicts the faceof asthma among the urban poor in Amer-ica. Drawing attention to poverty, substandardhousing, lack of access to health care, and thediscriminatory policies and practices of healthand social agencies, the chapter reveals the im-pact of environmental and social inequalities onincreasing health disparities between the mid-dle and upper classes and the poor. Mitmandoes an excellent job of situating the strugglefor the right to breathe among Americas urbanpoor in the context of broader social move-ments for civil rights, economic equality, andsocial justice.In chapter 5, On the Home Front, Mit-man provides an account of the transformationof the home into a place of healing for al-lergy sufferers. This chapter includes an in-depth historical overview of the study ofindoor environments, including the science ofDownloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 18:05 07 October 2014 134 Volume 61, Number 1, February 2009industrial hygiene and the engineering behindthe creation of indoor environments that con-tained the healing characteristics of nature thatattracted so many to Denver and Tucson. Mit-man offers an intriguing story of the war ondust, a war that belonged only to the eliteand involved the mass consumption of homeair conditioners, cleaning products, and vac-uum cleaners. In doing so, Mitman also revealsthe unintended consequences of manufactur-ing indoor breathing spacethe introductionof chemical sensitivities.In the final chapter, An Inhaler in EveryPocket, Mitman presents a critical look atthe proliferation of prescription and over-the-counter drugs to treat allergies and examineswhat he perceives as a struggle among doc-tors drug companies, and consumers for controlover allergic bodies.This book represents a telling story of thehistory of allergies in America, which revealsthe complex relationship between allergies andthe physical and social environments in whichwe live. In every chapter Mitman remindsus of the geographic specificity of allergies(and treatment) across multiple scalesbodies,households, communities, cities, regions, andso on. He also succeeds in demonstrating thatissues of class and race continue to permeatelandscapes of healing and contribute to healthdisparities. This book is a must read for anyonewith interests in history, geography, environ-ment, health, or political economy.KeyWords:allergies, environment, landscapes of healing, polit-ical ecology.Threads of Labour: Garment Industry Sup-ply Chains from the Workers Perspec-tive. Angela Hale and Jane Wills, eds.Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2005. 288 pp. $41.95paper (ISBN 978-1-4051-2638-0).Reviewed by Paul Susman, GeographyDepart-ment, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.Threads of Labour offers an accessible and clearview of action research in the service of garmentworkers worldwide. By having the research de-fined and at least partly conducted by people in-volved in local struggles, this critical geographywork takes sides, as the goal is to produce new,impeccably supported knowledge that wouldnot be possible if garment workers were notactive participants. Discovering who the actualpurchasers or suppliers are, for example, mayinvolve workers reading the labels on shippedgoods. At the same time, the book provides anoverview of findings and the framework andtheory informing the different studies. The ed-itors have taken care to ensure that the theoryis linked to the case studies and the case studychapters highlight the theory. These qualitiesmake the book especially useful for teachingundergraduate students of economic geogra-phy and related fields about restructuring ingarment production, how capitalist exploita-tion actually works in many different ways, andhow women workers actually struggle to im-prove their working conditions, incomes, andopportunities. Importantly, the possibility forworkers gains is shown to be very real.Part of what makes the book so well designedfor teaching is that although all the chaptersoffer insights and complement each other, itis possible to use a smaller selection based ongeography or particular themes. However, thefirst five chapters set the stage with particularsof the worldwide garment industry, the theo-retical framework of the studies, and a numberof case studies (for example, in chap. 5, illus-trating points made about supply chains in pre-vious chapters, especially chap. 2). Chapters 6and 7 continue reporting the nine country ex-periences from Asia and Europe, the UnitedKingdom, and Mexico, drawing on the sup-ply chain and networked capitalism discussionsfrom chapter 3, and chapter 8 draws lessons ofresearch for the battle to defend and extendworkers rights (p. 15). Chapter 9 examineslikely shifts in the context of the end of theMultifiber Arrangement (ending after the bookwas written), and chapter 10 offers conclusions.Hale andWills co-edited the book on behalfof Women Working Worldwide (WWW), aUK-based nongovernmental organization thatbuilt a network of women workers organiza-tions worldwide and is concerned with theway in which changes in the global economycan have a negative impact on the working livesof women. The aim is to increase awareness ofthese changes and to support the developmentof appropriate strategies for defendingworkersrights (p. 3).Each of the reports from ten organizationsoperating in nine countries reveals differentdimensions of the structure of the globalDownloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 18:05 07 October 2014