Anna Feigenbaum joins us to discuss the fascinating political history of Tear Gas.
Its name has become synonymous with oppression and police brutality across the world, and its use continues to proliferate despite the international treaties outlawing chemical weapons. But how can a substance created for fighting the first world war still be considered an acceptable form of crowd control in civilian settings?
Today, tear gas has become the most commonly used form of “less-lethal” police force. In 2011, the year that protests exploded from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, tear gas sales tripled. Most tear gas is produced in the United States, and many images of protestors in Tahrir Square showed tear gas canisters with “Made in USA” printed on them, while Britain continues to sell tear gas to countries on its own human rights blacklist.
An engrossing century-spanning narrative, Feigenbaum’s Tear Gas is the first history of this weapon, and takes us from military labs and chemical weapons expos to union assemblies and protest camps, drawing on declassified reports and witness testimonies to show how policing with poison came to be.
Dr Anna Feigenbaum is co-author of the book Protest Camps, and her work has appeared in Vice, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, Salon, Financial Times, Open Democracy, New Internationalist, and Waging Nonviolence. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University.