Tata Steel versus Wijk aan Zee: creating a citizenship out of the battle between Health and Economy
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In the contestation of Tata’s Steel industrial pollution in the region of the Ijmond in the Netherlands, I am exploring the link between economic and social inequalities and how they form people’s perception of risk to health. After the migrant movement came to Ijmuiden around the eighties and lived nearby and worked in Tata Steel, there has been the marginalization of the lower-class society in Wijk aan Zee regarding health. Tata Steel Ijmuiden is a Dutch multinational steel manufacturing company, hereafter named Tata Steel, which has been allowed to pollute the Ijmond for decades; just recently been brought to hold by the foundation Frisse Wind and an RIVM report (Kreling & Schoorl. Volkskrant, 2022). It is the most significant source of pollution in the Netherlands (Nos Nieuws, 2021), and with the lack of anthropological research on the social problems Tata Steel is creating by polluting the Ijmond, my thesis will contribute to addressing the debates concerning this contestation. The foundation Frisse Wind wants to represent the people’s voice of the Ijmond contested by Tata Steel’s pollution and sues them for this reason. The RIVM report helped Frisse Wind by highlighting Tata Steel’s contestation by measuring their emissions and the effect it can have on people living in the Ijmond. During my fieldwork and whilst conducting interviews, I have come across the struggle of workers of Tata Steel being economically and socially tied to work at a factory, marginalizing their health. During my fieldwork, I have followed members of Frisse Wind through the social, political, and economic debates and dilemmas within the discourse of industrial pollution. Furthermore, I have experienced the fight for social justice within the foundation as an anthropologist and how it affects my position as a researcher. Trapped between Tata Steel and Frisse Wind, between residents and workers, I have portrayed the overall discourse of industrial pollution and how it is perceived to be affecting the health of people in the Ijmond, where I specifically found social contestation because of this in the town of Wijk aan Zee, which is why I have specified my research on this town. From the social contestation between different perspectives on the risk of health arose from this, I have found a new way of citizenship by dealing with these different contestations. This portrayal shows how the division between Tata Steel and Frisse Wind is not black and white but has multiple layers, where priorities and economic and social marginalization colour this discourse. I use the concepts of trust and risk to understand how people in the region of the IJmond perceive how the risk of Tata Steel’s pollution is contesting their health.