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The story of how a chemical weapon went from the battlefield to the streets
More than a hundred years ago, French troops fired the first tear gas grenades at the German enemy. Designed to force people out from cover, tear gas causes tearing and gagging, burning the eyes and skin. Its use has ended in miscarriages, permanent injuries, and death. While all but a few countries have agreed that it is illegal to manufacture, stockpile, or use chemical weapons of war, tear gas continues to proliferate in civilian settings. Today, it is a best-selling form of “less lethal” police force. From Ferguson to the Occupied Territories of Palestine, images of protesters assaulted with “made in the USA” tear gas canisters have been seen around the world. The United States is the largest manufacturer, and Brazil and South Korea are rapidly growing markets, while Britain has found an international audience for its riot control expertise.
An engrossing century-spanning global narrative, Tear Gas is the first history of this poorly understood weapon. Anna Feigenbaum travels from military labs and chemical weapons expos to union assemblies and protest camps, drawing on declassified reports and eyewitness testimonies to show how policing with poison came to be.
About the Author
Anna Feigenbaum is a writer, researcher and educator working on communication and social change. She 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 Communications at Bournemouth University.
“A vivid history of the time and also—as good radical accounts should be—a source of encouragement to those fighting all too similar battles today.” —Hilary Rose
“It is this violence that comes through most clearly in Tear Gas—the psychological factors, the sheer unfairness and dismissiveness that accompany the use of chemicals against demonstrators and ordinary citizens, all come through brilliantly. Tear gas not only affects protesters and bystanders indiscriminately; it relegates the status of a dissenting citizen to that of a mere irritant.” —Yiannis Baboulias, Times Literary Supplement
“There is something epic about Anna Feigenbaum’s Tear Gas, its scope and intensity, the way that chemistry—the orienting science of the industrial revolution—provides the material to manage that revolution’s epic collapse … There is crucial knowledge to be found here.” —Joshua Clover, author of Riot.Strike.Riot
“A passionately argued history of the development and gradual spread of tear gas around the world … a clarion call for reassessment of the widespread availability and misuse of tear gas.” —Patrick Wicklen, Researcher on Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International
“Fascinating, deeply researched and lucid … We have become so accustomed to the use of tear gas during protests that it comes as a shock when we realize, in reading this book, how little we know about the longer-term effects of what is in some ways a chemical weapon.” —Laleh Khalili, author of Time in the Shadows
“Read Feigenbaum’s book. It’s timely, well-written, and very important.” —Evaggelos Vallianatos, Independent Science News
“Feigenbaum integrates science and history with a compelling discussion of tear gas’s history and its present role in the civilian arena.” —Choice