Safety Orange first emerged in the 1950s as a bureaucratic color standard in technical manuals and federal regulations in the United States. Today it is most visible in the contexts of terror, pandemic, and environmental alarm systems; traffic control; work safety; and mass incarceration. In recent decades, the color has become ubiquitous in American public life—a marker of the extreme poles of state oversight and abandonment, of capitalist excess and dereliction. Its unprecedented saturation encodes the tracking of those bodies, neighborhoods, and infrastructures judged as worthy of care—and those deemed dangerous and expendable.
Here, Anna Watkins Fisher uses Safety Orange as an interpretive key for theorizing the uneven distribution of safety and care in twenty-first-century U.S. public life and for pondering what the color tells us about neoliberalism’s intensifying impact often hiding in plain sight in ordinary and commonplace phenomena.
Cameron Rowland, 1st Defense NFPA 1977, 2011
COVID-19 Testing Site
Fyre Festival Instagram post
Hank Willis Thomas, We The People
Homeland Security Advisory System
Michael Rakowitz, A Color Removed
New York Times Coronavirus world map (December 2020)
New York Times Coronavirus world map (May 2020)
NOAA Heat Index Chart
- rightsPortions of this book were previously published in "Safety Orange," Journal of Visual Culture 20, no. 1 (2021): 3–24; copyright 2021 SAGE Publications; doi: 10.1177/1470412921994603.
Safety Orange by Anna Watkins Fisher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
- publisherUniversity of Minnesota Press
- publisher placeMinneapolis, MN
- restrictionsPlease see the Creative Commons website for details about the restrictions associated with the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
- rights holderAnna Watkins Fisher
- series number50
- series title