On Breathing

Care in a Time of Catastrophe

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Book Description

A gorgeous, expansive piece of narrative non-fiction about care, dependence, and what it means to breathe in an age of environmental catastrophe

A few moments after birth we begin to use our lungs for the first time. From then on, we must continue breathing for as long as we are alive. And although this mostly happens unconsciously, in a society plagued by anxiety, climate change, environmental racism, and illness, there are more and more instances that “teach us about the privilege that is breathing.” 

Why do we so easily forget the air that we breathe in common? What does it mean to breathe when the environment that sustains life now threatens it? And how can life continue to flourish under conditions that are increasingly toxic? To approach these questions, Jamieson Webster draws on psychoanalytic theory and reflects on her own experiences as an asthmatic teenager, a deep-sea diver, a palliative psychologist during COVID, a psychoanalyst attentive to the somatic, and a new mother. 

The result is a compassionate and timely exploration of air and breathing as a way to undo the pervasive myth of the individual by considering our dependence on invisible systems, on one another, and the way we have violently neglected this important aspect of life.

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