Category Archives: publications

A Quick Reading List on American White Supremacy.

With the start of a new school year, a reminder that history provides important context for the present day. Here is a brief, by no means comprehensive, list of books that provide context for our times.

Suitable for General US History Survey Courses:
Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People.

Kalil Gibran Muhammed, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.

Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States.

Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940.

C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.

Suitable for Environmental History and Environmental Studies Courses:
Carolyn Finney, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors.

Sylvia Hood Washington, Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954.

…and I will mention that I organized my book Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States (out in paperback on September 1) so that it could be used in either surveys of general US history or American environmental history.

Clean and White available in paperback September 1.

NYU Press is releasing the paperback edition of my book Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States. Copies should be available on September 1, 2017 at a list price of $24.

From NYU Press:

C&Wcover

When Joe Biden attempted to compliment Barack Obama by calling him “clean and articulate,” he unwittingly tapped into one of the most destructive racial stereotypes in American history. This book tells the history of the corrosive idea that whites are clean and those who are not white are dirty. From the age of Thomas Jefferson to the Memphis Public Workers strike of 1968 through the present day, ideas about race and waste have shaped where people have lived, where people have worked, and how American society’s wastes have been managed.
Clean and White offers a history of environmental racism in the United States focusing on constructions of race and hygiene. In the wake of the civil war, as the nation encountered emancipation, mass immigration, and the growth of an urbanized society, Americans began to conflate the ideas of race and waste. Certain immigrant groups took on waste management labor, such as Jews and scrap metal recycling, fostering connections between the socially marginalized and refuse. Ethnic “purity” was tied to pure cleanliness, and hygiene became a central aspect of white identity.
Carl A. Zimring here draws on historical evidence from statesmen, scholars, sanitarians, novelists, activists, advertisements, and the United States Census of Population to reveal changing constructions of environmental racism. The material consequences of these attitudes endured and expanded through the twentieth century, shaping waste management systems and environmental inequalities that endure into the twenty-first century. Today, the bigoted idea  that non-whites are “dirty” remains deeply ingrained in the national psyche, continuing to shape social and environmental inequalities in the age of Obama.
The book is also available as a hardback and eBook. Instructors interested in an exam or desk copy may get one here.

OAH Blog Post on History of Recycling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Organization of American Historians asked me to write a brief post on the Process blog about the history of recycling. Here’s the lede:

In the popular imagination, recycling arose out of the modern environmental movement. Some associate recycling with efforts to to divert discards from landfills or with World War II scrap drives when the government mobilized resources for the war effort. But recycling’s history is both older and more complicated than either of those depictions.

Paul Revere recycled, though he did not use that word…

Read the rest, including discussion of curbside programs, wartime scrap drives, and the turn towards upcycling as a sustainable design strategy.

This Week: Aluminum Upcycled at ASEH in Chicago

chicago.green.river

The Chicago River may not be green by the start of the conference, but we will discuss green design strategies March 30.

The American Society for Environmental History meeting is in Chicago (the Drake Hotel, to be precise) this week, and I will discuss my new book Aluminum Upcycled in two sessions on Thursday. (The book will be available at the book exhibit and can also be purchased from Johns Hopkins University Press’s website.)

At 8:30am, Thursday March 30, I will be part of a panel on “Histories of Design and the Environment” with Kjetil Fallan, Rachel S. Gross, and Eun-Joo Ahn. We will all present individual papers, and then Steven Corey will comment and moderate.

Immediately thereafter at 10:30am, I will be part of a Critical Discard Studies and Environmental History roundtable organized by Martin Melosi. I will discuss aspects of the book in both sessions, with a focus on Herman Miller’s furniture design in the first and a broader discussion of where the book fits in the literature in the second.

Aluminum Upcycled Book Event in Brooklyn Saturday 1:30pm

zimringpostedI will discuss my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective (available now) at Pratt’s Sustainability Crash Course in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon March 25 from 1:30-2:20pm. 

The Sustainability Crash Course runs from 9am to 5pm with a variety of talks and events at Pratt’s Brooklyn campus (200 Willoughby Avenue near the Clinton-Washington C station and the Classon G station). My book launch will be in Pratt’s Engineering Building at 1:30pm and last about 50 minutes. The event is free, but registration is required.

I will have copies of the book for sale ($30 cash or check, a discount from the $39.95 list price) at the event. Johns Hopkins University Press describes my history of sustainable design strategies this way:

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015. 

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire,  Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.

H-Environment Roundtable on Race and the Environment

This week, H-Environment published a roundtable double review of Carolyn Finney’s Black Faces, White Spaces and my Clean and White, featuring comments from Mary E. Mendoza, Kathryn Morse, Richard M. Mizelle, Jr., and Traci Brynne Voyles, and responses by both authors. The link opens the 38-page PDF.

Thanks to all of the participants for such an engaging discussion, and to editor Christopher F. Jones for organizing this ambitious double roundtable.

Aluminum Upcycled at ASEH Chicago March 30

zimringpostedMy book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective is available now, and I will discuss it in a couple of panels at the American Society for Environmental History meeting in Chicago on March 30. The conference is at Chicago’s Drake Hotel.

At 8:30am, Thursday March 30, I will be part of a panel on “Histories of Design and the Environment” with Kjetil Fallan, Rachel S. Gross, and Eun-Joo Ahn. We will all present individual papers, and then Steven Corey will comment. Adam Rome moderates.

Immediately thereafter at 10:30am, I will be part of a Critical Discard Studies and Environmental History roundtable organized by Martin Melosi. I will discuss aspects of the book in both sessions, with a focus on Herman Miller’s furniture design in the first and a broader discussion of where the book fits in the literature in the second. You can get a preview of what I will focus on from Johns Hopkins University Press’s summary of the book:

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015. 

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire,  Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.