Body Odor and Biopolitics

Characterizing Smell in Neoliberal America


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About the Book

Originally rooted in stereotypes about race and class, the modern norm of bodily odorlessness emerged amid 19th and early 20-century developments in urban sanitation, labor relations and product marketing. Today, discrimination against strong-smelling people includes spatial segregation and termination from employment yet goes unchallenged by social justice movements.

This book examines how neoliberal rhetoric legitimizes treating strong-smelling people as defective individuals rather than a marginalized group, elevates authority figures into arbiters of odor, and drives sales of hygiene products for making bodies acceptable.

About the Author(s)

Nat Lazakis is an independent researcher who studies how late capitalist institutions affect experiences of embodiment and place. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Radical Librarianship and in Ethics and the Environment. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Nat Lazakis
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8328-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4277-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction 5
One—The Neoliberal History of Body Odor 37
Two—Policing Rented Bodies: Odor in the Workplace 62
Three—Gated Communities of Knowledge: Public Libraries’ Body Odor Bans and the Spatial Politics of Purity 91
Four—Elusive Allies 111
Five—Is Green Just a Color? Environmentalism and Olfactory Discrimination 138
Six—Medicalization and Its Discontents 157
Conclusion 181
Appendix I: Survey of Olfactory Discrimination in the Workplace 185
Appendix II: U.S. Public Libraries with Body Odor Bans 186
Chapter Notes 189
Bibliography 191
Index 207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “…meticulously researched, referencing an impressive range of scholarship and existing research on body odor, embodiment, social justice, neoliberalism, and disability studies.”—Russell Meeuf, author, Rebellious Bodies: Stardom, Citizenship, and the New Body Politics