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Oral history, subjectivity, and environmental reality: occupational health histories in twentieth-century scotland

Johnston, R. and McIvor, A.J. (2004) Oral history, subjectivity, and environmental reality: occupational health histories in twentieth-century scotland. In: OSIRIS:Landscapes of Exposure: Knowledge and Illness in Modern Environments. Osiris, 2nd Series, 19 . JSTOR, United States, pp. 234-249. ISBN 0–226–53251–8

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Abstract

This essay uses oral histories of dust disease in twentieth-century Scotland to illustrate the ways in which such history can illuminate how the working environment and work cultures affect workers' bodies and how workers come to terms with the ill-health caused by their employment. It emphasizes the agency of the interpreter but argues further that oral histories of dust disease in twentieth-century Scotland are simultaneously influenced by, and evidence for, material conditions. The essay explores the notion that the bodies, not just the voices of interviewees, are material testament to health-corroding work practices, cultures, and habitat. The focus is the problems caused by the inhalation of coal and asbestos dust.